When I was thirteen I had surgery; two mild organs were removed. Ever since I opened my eyes in the operating room they don’t quite close. Each year there is a full month I stay awake; this year July was my lucky.
During our interview, poet Diannely Antigua said: “I am resisting something within myself that doesn’t want me to be alive,” and I told her I resonated.
So August is about resistance. So August is about resistance. We have ancestral damage from G.G. Silverman, a pantoum from Diannely Antigua, poison from Liam Lezra, and code-blocks from Nnadi Samuel.
September’s theme is:
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My mother never stripteased and rode broomsticks at midnight by a full moon. She was a good girl, never made a move without a phone call, consulting the council of Women Who Don’t Break Rules. They insisted on certain behaviors: don’t wear black unless it’s a funeral, wear hose under your skirts to protect your ladyhood, cover your scars with makeup and pearls. Show the others you’re a team player: always bring cream puffs to a feast. Wear just enough gold, cover thyself in crosses. Walk in a somber parade with the saints and martyrs. Thy breasts are only for babies.
My mother never gave birth to snakes in a crypt of dirt and leaves. I was born in a sanitary place, a white place, a bright place, though the man who pulled me from between my mother’s legs spoke in foreign tongues. He was old, kindly, the last of a generation. They soon found I was sick, though, a half-breed who wouldn’t suckle and couldn’t be consoled. One who cried out in the night when snakes spilled from her skin. One who set fires, danced naked, ran with feral dogs.
My mother never wore strange hats, even though they bloomed in her dreams, symbols of repressed desires. They towered and glittered toward heaven, headpieces of malicious intent piled high with pistols, orchids, wild birds. My mother only smiles in these dreams, but with preternaturally small teeth, like Mona Lisa would, if she could, but never will.
My mother never wielded an axe, never buried a body. There was that uncle who took my young self to the basement of our house, sat me on his lap when no one was looking. There was that gang of teenage boys who asked me to come inside one day, sit beside them right there on the sofa. The two drunks on the train. The boy who held me in the lake. The man at that party in the cabin in the woods.
My mother never clipped the cord between us on the day I left. It stretches far, even now, and sometimes tugs me backwards, a fumble toward the abyss. It’s with me everywhere, in the laundromat, at the grocer, at the car wash, during sex. Sometimes it trips passersby, and sounds like a harp when plucked. I get tangled in it when I’m not careful, and I spin, and I spin, and I spin.
G.G. Silverman writes speculative fiction and poetry from just north of Seattle. She was nominated for Best Small Fictions, among other honors, and was a finalist for the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund for feminist writers. Her work has appeared in StrangeHouse Books, Psychopomp, Speculative City, Corvid Queen, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, The Seventh Wave, Molotov Cocktail, and more. She is currently at work on a short story collection as well as a poetry collection. To learn more, please visit ggsilverman.com.
PANTOUM IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
Don’t call my doctor. Don’t call
the neighbor. Maybe I like
to be devastated, to make a medicine
out of neglect. Maybe there is another
neighbor in me who doesn’t like
September—another birthday, another year
of neglect, maybe another
day to smell violence in the air. I barely
live till September, another year of birthdays
to stay alive for my eggs, so they can’t be used
for violence. To leave their smell in the air, sometimes
I take a spoonful of pills to bed
and see my eggs still alive, never used. Sometimes
I dream of shoving whole loaves of bread into my mouth,
as I spread my worth like pills on the bed. And I can’t
stop looking for more bread, even as I spit out
whole dreams shaped like loaves, my whole mouth
open wide to the aisle of the grocery store,
even as people stop to look for more bread.
Each time I come back from the hospital,
I open myself wide like an aisle at the grocery store.
I throw away the comforter and paint the walls.
Each time I come back from the hospital,
the deer show up in the parking lot to eat from the bushes.
I throw it all away—my comfort, my walls.
I’m the doctor you didn’t call.
I eat the deer. I eat the bushes
to be devastated, to make a medicine.
Diannely Antigua is a Dominican American poet and educator, born and raised in Massachusetts. Her debut collection Ugly Music (YesYes Books, 2019) was the winner of the Pamet River Prize and a 2020 Whiting Award. She received her BA in English from the University of Massachusetts Lowell where she won the Jack Kerouac Creative Writing Scholarship; and received her MFA at NYU where she was awarded a Global Research Initiative Fellowship to Florence, Italy. She is the recipient of additional fellowships from CantoMundo, Community of Writers, and the Fine Arts Work Center Summer Program. Her work has been nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her poems can be found in Washington Square Review, Bennington Review, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. Her heart is in Brooklyn.
You can read her interview with Rough Cut Press here.
i asked her rub my back instead
nails dug through skin rage
sat up she fell slammed
head on bed frame
still, we dated
three more months because
resistance takes time.
every canyon shaped a river, once
some say you have to see the poison
snake to drop it i held on to
marvel, maybe, purpling blue
fist circled malignant fingers
until i let the whole hand
an army is useless in empty land
called as she left
car broke down
the valley midnight
street poison i
turned off my phone.
a wall can’t keep out what doesn’t want in
i am a fleeting idea
a good one, i hope, so
i traded fist body name
to call myself crusader
raised open arm to
constant marching sky
every beach is a cliff the rest is sea
you’ll find me swimming nameless
in your whisper ear look
it’s poison, look
Liam Lezra the co-founder and art director of Rough Cut Press and the founder and creative director of Mission Created.
Liam holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from UC Berkeley. He is trained in transformational work, dialogue, marketing, poetry, and mediation.
You can find more of his work here.
not to stress my lung,
I wave brushes now, every time I’m signaling my mother
channeled to a thing— like making her hair up.
her drama with combs, repeating a skit,
a complete suite— audio, visual & clip, all for her green looks:
things we cannot eat,
& cannot tell her in plain words, so we sugar the glyphs.
It all started with code blocks & winks.
& then, we had our last born,
& then we got caught.
didn’t matter how many sugar we put there,
we got flogged— the whip, heavy as her kit bag.
I got the first lash, & then my sophomore.
can’t remember if the third one was my sib, coz he was knocked with her lipstick:
the big, fat ones with cudgel tips swollen up,
waiting for such brawls,
to change to a singlestick.
never learnt a girl’s pace, till I took to heels,
outsprinting my mother in a death chase.
& how I left cosmetics on each street,
so she picks all, before dashing for me.
It all seems like code-block:
that chemistry between me & my sibs,
till I reached my roadblock,
& cannot trace a thing.
I’ve combed the whole town,
repeating her skit— audio, visual & clip.
but distance spoils it all
& refunds my show in shrieks:
a ricocheting sound wearing all my sibs.
I think of Sophie, & her girl cramp,
how we thought this thing was only a skit—a mere prank.
could stop by a red spa to bribe my mum with gifts,
could jettison my naps to rub her make-ups,
but all that wouldn’t bring the code-block she & my lastborn killed.
Nnadi Samuel is a graduate of English & Literature from the University of Benin. His works have been previously published in PORT Magazine, Gordon Square Review, Seventh Wave Magazine, Rigorous Magazine, Blue Nib journal, The Elephant Magazine, Lunaris Review, Inverse Journal, Canyon Voices, The Collidescope, Jams & Sand magazine, Journal Nine, & are forthcoming in The Suburban Review, The Quills, Eunoia Review & elsewhere. He won the Splendor of Dawn Poetry Contest April 2020, got shortlisted in the annual Poet’s Choice award & was the second-prize winner of the EOPP 2019 contest. His first chapbook “Reopening of Wounds” is forthcoming in the WRR publisher. He is a co-reader at U-Right Magazine. On Twitter, he is @Samuelsamba10.
PTSD is a country of almosts and the funny thing is my pen died twice during this sentence. PTSD is getting dressed and powdered for the date I can’t show up to because the watch on my wrist is made out of ticking flesh that gets cold; I hide. I try to explain I need to go home but home is a place where electric storms pass over the microwaves in my brain. How many recipes have I expelled? How much fruit have I watched rot fungus sharp? Rejection tastes like cold honey in a cavity; I feed myself instead. At midnight I blend flour, butter, sugar and salt into dough I decorate with peaches. I wait for her to rise. I tell myself: rest. Eat.