Tag Archives: Issue 7

Three Words

By Kaleena Madruga

Describe yourself in three words, Khal says. He prods the growing fire with an unravelled wire hanger.

Um, I start, pulling my blanket a little tighter over my shoulders.

Abrasive. Creative. Driven.

Good ones, Chris says, nodding.

I don’t think you’re abrasive, Suzanne offers kindly. I shrug.

I have created a misty kind of coat; it envelopes my tougher memories, the sad ones and the bad ones, making it hard for me to remember things exactly as they may have happened.

Abrasive.

Some people know about my divorce and some who don’t. There is also one, Chris, who knows but does not wish to know. So I keep to myself most of it, good and bad, but there are jolts like a metal stick against wood amidst the heat that hit me when I am unprepared.

I fell asleep most nights alone, before and after, before because I was actually alone, during because my ex-husband worked later, and after because I had no choice. I remembered moving into a dingy, ugly, unhappy apartment and thinking that I would be ok if I could fall asleep that night. I did fall asleep quite easily, but I was not ok. Sleeping was the only thing I was able to do with a relative routine for two years. But I have been abrasive long before this.

I often talk to my therapist about how masculine my house was. My father, my brother, my mother, my pets. Looming, loud, competitive, confident. Dark hair, dark skin, dark fur. Masculine. I asked for a canopy bed, purple walls. I had tangled hair that refused to be brushed smooth; my mother had to spray it with a detangler, yank the comb through. My skin, covered in thick Portuguese hair, became dry in the heat, eczema scabs up and down my arms and legs. I craved softness, quiet. I’d ask my mom to teach me how to do makeup, and her face would twist like she’d tasted a lemon. I don’t wear makeup; she’d say and toss her hair behind her shoulder. I don’t need it.

I was and still am obsessed with feminine beauty. I dye my hair blonde and blow dry it straight. I whiten my teeth, shave my arms and legs and feet, and my face and my pubis. I rub lotion all over myself, inject my forehead to make it smooth. Every day I put on makeup. My underwear is lacy. I am the ugliest I’ve ever felt in my life.

Standing in a dark bar trying to reconcile after the cheating, I am drunk and holding onto a pool cue with its base pressed into the ground for balance. My misty jacket of protection disables me from remembering exactly what I said that night, but my ex-husband leaves alone, tears brimming in his eyes.

After it was over, I only sought out men with girlfriends. I didn’t cry or ask for help. I wanted to prove that what happened to me could and would happen to anyone. Two years later, I was a sick and bruised skeleton. I developed something close to shame, but there’s a better word for it I haven’t found yet.

I treat my body like it’s as disposable as I feel. I pump it full of alcohol, allow it to stumble, to be handled, unloved. I talk to myself like a nemesis; I punch my mirror and let it break on my hand. Disgusting, I say to the shards of my reflection and my blood. You are disgusting.

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Creative.

If you can figure out a way to get fucked up every day and ruin all of your relationships, you have to be pretty creative. I am dependable and eloquent enough with my words to maintain a job as a freelance writer. I make just enough to buy enough bottles of wine every night to send me into a coma. 

Years later, I attempt to turn everything I hate about myself into a collection of stories to be sold and held and read. Creative.

I find Chris at a small table on a Tuesday morning because we are reading the same book. I am pleasant enough, but I have not loved anyone in years, and I certainly haven’t touched anyone that I got close to liking, including myself. Even though I am shiny and new, my insides are still sick and decayed, healing but slowly. I am grateful that I now live somewhere with seasons, as I can attach imagery to my innards. My outsides are spring, blooming. My insides are winter. Dead.

But I try, I try with Chris because something inside the dead forest of my winter tells me that he is worth it. And while I am terrified of love and even more terrified of myself, I let him in. Time passes, and I begin to see myself in different ways. I finish the things I’ve started. I treat my skin and body better; my insides bloom. 

You are very bright, so creative. My boss says to me. We are speaking over the phone, so I wince like I’m about to take a punch. She never says but. She just leaves it there. Bright and creative.

Are you a creative person? Suzanne asks Chris.

Not at all, he laughs, puffing smoke out of his mouth.

That must be hard, she says, considering her hands. She is so creative that it must be intimidating.

Whatever pride I had is shoved back into a drawer and saved for myself. I remember that my grandmother when she was alive, used to sew. 

I sip my beer and nod, re-writing this whole story in my head.

Driven.

I can tell you that I know what it’s like to want to die, to hope that you will just drop dead, so you don’t have to do it yourself. 

But I can also tell you that I know what it’s like to want to live. To really live, to feel everything with such an immense magnitude that you could turn it into something beautiful if you held onto it instead of trying to wash it away.

I will tell you that I gathered up everything I had and tried to save my life because of these two feelings happening inside me all at once. I can say that the wanting to live felt bigger but much scarier. I can tell you that I held onto the armrest of my airplane seat, shaking on my way to a new life, still very much afraid of my old self. I had two suitcases and was sitting in a pad filled with blood from the baby I’d aborted two days before.

I cannot say that I figured anything out or that everything is ok. When people tell me I am brave, I tend to diminish those words, wave them away in the wind. I did the things I had to do because I didn’t see any other way. I am not brave because if that plane had started to go down, my grip on the armrest would have remained the same.

I do not say any of these things tonight, with my friends, or ever. I hold onto them, and I look at the stars. I take my three words, and I hold onto them; they are mine, I like them.


Kaleena Madruga received her BA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and her MFA in Creative Writing from Roosevelt University. She lives in Chicago. Kaleenamadruga.com

Day Race

By Felicia Zuniga

It trickles away helplessly

wordlessly

without warning

Who knows the things you could have

accomplished

if it didn’t jolt away

your lifeblood

if it didn’t slash

your face with wrinkles

if it didn’t choke

you of the talents

you knew

were harboring inside

somewhere

The sun performs its

perfunctory duty

The moon sneaks into

work on time

The seasons play their parts with

alarming bravado

How come you can’t keep up?

always lagging behind, winded

they are powered from within

You’re evidently unplugged

Leaking consciousness

evaporating fickle cells

that were once filled with

something

Blink and you’ll miss it

the idea that could have

brought you great fame from

today has just floated away

on a wisp of goodbye

on a strand of yesterday


Felicia Zuniga is a writer and communications specialist who lives in Calgary, Alberta with her husband and two young sons. She has been writing poetry for over a decade and has been published in a variety of journals including Contemporary Verse 2 – The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing, The Antigonish Review, Montreal Writes, Existere – Journal of Arts & Literature and FreeFall Magazine. She has a Master of Journalism degree from Carleton University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Honours with a Creative Writing Concentration from the University of Calgary. Learn more at www.feliciazuniga.com.

*Komboloi

By Mary Chydiriotis

Waves lap and whisper 

seagulls squawk  

the constant pull of the sea

In your right hand

citrine drops of pressure and time

the thread pulled 

unconscious rhythm of the Kompoloi

beads click as time ticks  

Fragments of memory

transient storage in hippocampus

secrets locked away

a son gone

The sea a melancholy roar

howling wind a breathing moon 
distant lights flicker

a cargo ship fades into the past

beads click as time ticks 

on terra firma

Melpomeni guts and scales fish

Red Mullet (his favourite) 

Sea Urchins

Sardines from Kalloni 

where wildflowers grow

a bronze briki with a full belly

a backgammon board ready  

mopeds wiz by

children chuckle   

the sea breeze strokes your neck

you wait  

* worry beads


Mary Chydiriotis lives in Melbourne. She is passionate about coffee, dogs, books and social justice. Her poems have been published in local and international anthologies and journals. In 2019, a selection of Mary’s poems featured in ‘Poetry of the Sun and the Sea: from Homer to Slam poetry’, a Greek Studies course at La Trobe University. Loud and Red, her first collection of poetry, was published by Ginnindera Press, in 2020.

Good for You

By Sarah Wood

When you tell me,

As the highest form of compliment, 

“You’re good for me.”

I think of all the ways I would describe you.

Never do I imagine

Using words that would suggest back 

A relationship to myself.

I made a list of things that are “Good for Me”: 

Cardio

Flossing 

Probiotics

Sunscreen

I couldn’t put your name, 

Beneath these

Magicless, Consumable,

Things.

Tell me, could you even see me without seeing yourself?

Or did we mistake self-sacrifice for intimacy?

To love you without leaving myself, 

I have to lose.

To love me without losing myself,

I have to leave.

I don’t want to be good for you. 

I want to be whole.


Sarah Wood is a writer, TEDx speaker and mindfulness facilitator from Michigan, currently living in New York City. She is the founder of Joy Soldier™, a community and toolkit to help people lead more joyful lives. She loves finding new books, hummus, and good questions. Sarah has previously been published in the Huffington Post and Thrive Global.

Good form

By Dominic Loise

James dusted off the time he was known as Jimmy. 

This freeform shadow of former identity danced along his bedroom wall just above the writing desk as he prepared for slumber.

 A knocking play of the imagination beckoned pause with a tap-tap-tap against his window. 

Tomorrow announced it’s coming by the tic-tic-ticking of a nightstand clock swimming closer to midnight. Soon, he would be thirteen. 

Pen walked the plank into fresh ink as a new signature was lifted out of the dark thought pool. 

The end of the last letter swashbuckled up in good form. 

The old childhood name left behind with hatred. 

This new identity hooked his fancy as a feather in his cap. 

He falls to bed petered out.


Dominic Loise (he/him) is open about and advocates for mental health awareness, as seen with his essay writing for F(r)iction. His work has appeared in Alchemic Gold Poetry Society, Alt.Ctrl.Jpg, Analogies & Allegories, Calm Down, Clementine Zine, Collective Realms, Emotional Alchemy, Goat’s Milk, Innsaei Journal, Mulberry Literary, October Hill, Ouch!, Push up Daisies!, Raven Review, Re. Collective, Refresh and Silent Auctions. Dominic was a finalist in Short Editions’ “America: Color it in” contest.  You can find Dominic on Instagram @dominic_lives.

The Wait

By Felicia Zuniga

The wait seeps into your skin
stretching it into rivers of worry

It pours into your stomach
tightens knots and tosses acid 

The wait pulls on your hair
until it strips it of colour
Muscles and memories become dull
corroded by the salty licks of wait

It erases sunlight from your eyes
spring from your step
definition from your days

The wait creeps into your bones
Your jaw becomes tight from the grind
of teeth every night
The wait happens in your mind
but it takes your body too

You never know if today
will be the day and your heart
sits up like the sun every morning
then slinks back into darkness at night

You install routines you can set
your hands to
They shove you through the day
even when you try to stop them

You keep moving even when the wait
bites and stings and scratches
You still wait and you hope
in the mornings


Felicia Zuniga is a writer and communications specialist who lives in Calgary, Alberta with her husband and two young sons. She has been writing poetry for over a decade and has been published in a variety of journals including Contemporary Verse 2 – The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing, The Antigonish Review, Montreal Writes, Existere – Journal of Arts & Literature and FreeFall Magazine. She has a Master of Journalism degree from Carleton University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Honours with a Creative Writing Concentration from the University of Calgary. Learn more at www.feliciazuniga.com.

Jill Has Root Rot

By Kyle Brandt-Lubart

A helicopter parent

Cared too much to ask

What do you need

Knuckle deep kept hidden

Puddles pooled at the bottom

Can you cry into your stomach?

Jill learned how because 

She needed to store it 

Somewhere untouched by pointed fingers

Good egg turned bad seed

Prying neighbors brayed

Why did she go so far away?

Gossiping winds know

She found somewhere to sow

Her mistakes into sweet moans

To let them ripen into her own

Bump and grind with them 

Into marigold mornings

On the phone amidst static

She wonders how gratitude and disdain

Become intimate with one another 

And if one day she will

Want to plant another seed

Near the cold concrete landing pad


Kyle Brandt-Lubart (she/her)  is a poet, visual artist, and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who resides in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Brandt-Lubart works full-time, providing free therapy services to uninsured and underinsured individuals living with mental illness. She was a St. Louis Regional Arts Commission Community Arts Training Institute Fellow from 2017-2018. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Vita Brevis, Agapanthus Collective, and MoonInk Tanka Poetry Anthology, and she was selected as a Dear Butte writer-in-residence for Fall 2021. She is co-author/illustrator of the chapbook, It Made A Sound, which is due to be released in Fall 2021.

March

By Felicia Zuniga

Slides in and out
as he pleases
warm some days
cold the next
an inconsiderate liar

Now he breezes in like a false spring

and blows hot secrets into my ears

promises destination vacations, sand and blue skies

so I pack away my wools

until he cancels last minute again

He acts distant on the phone

I can hear the wind in his voice

feel the ice in his touch

unexpected fury and fights

When I see him again

he’s green with delirium

drunk with indecision

by the time he’s gone for good

it’s already April Fool’s and I realize

the joke is on me


Felicia Zuniga is a writer and communications specialist who lives in Calgary, Alberta with her husband and two young sons. She has been writing poetry for over a decade and has been published in a variety of journals including Contemporary Verse 2 – The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing, The Antigonish Review, Montreal Writes, Existere – Journal of Arts & Literature and FreeFall Magazine. She has a Master of Journalism degree from Carleton University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Honours with a Creative Writing Concentration from the University of Calgary. Learn more at www.feliciazuniga.com.

Poison

By Parker Penhasi

Poison is a collage is a mixed media painting, with scenes comprising various pages from Concussion Skate Mag and New Noise Magazine, two journals that explore different underground scenes Parker grew up around. Being from Southern California, skateboarding and music often went hand in hand, so they use these cutouts to show the interrelationship between these seemingly unrelated scenes. Both embrace alternative lifestyles and a rejection of larger social expectations. This collage was constructed so the subjects all interact with each other while still maintaining their individuality.


Parker Penhasi currently lives in Olympia, Washington and has been able to focus on their artistic career while schools have been closed, waiting to finish pursuing their BASocio in California. Parker has contributed to various local projects, from posters for shows to album art for local artists, such as Virtual bird. They have also been a featured designer in a small screen printing business, Message to You Prints. Influenced by the underground, alternative music scenes they’re a part of, and by broad-spectrum leftist ideas, painting and illustration have been a lifelong passion of theirs. Today, they continue to experiment with new mediums and themes as their career continues to grow. Parker’s art can be followed on their Instagram page.

My North Star is Rhinestone

By Kate Miano

When he runs his hands over me, one part

juts out metal:

A freshly tilled valley,

by which his touches can trail

to other pieces of my topography.

Punctuating my torso for five years

it’s become as much appendage

as an arm.

A bejeweled wound, I carved myself

to map beauty.

Like a secret treasure I know it’s there

before anyone sees it.

My body’s North Star.


Kate Miano (She/Her) is a waitress/editor/writer/occasional nanny. She has an English degree from Suffolk University and has been previously published in magazines such as Venture, Overheard Lit, and Dynamis Journal. She lives in New York City and enjoys yoga, rooftops, and art museums. Kate can be found on Instagram and Twitter: @katemiayes.