When I was creating this illustration, I had the idea that it should include a head, because that’s where the brain is housed, and in the brain is where I think unrooting happens. Ideas, beliefs, desires, needs get uprooted all the time as we grow and change, or at least should, I believe. And when we put down new roots it’s with the hope that they bloom, much like the flowers around her head.
Today we celebrate four years since we launched Rough Cut Press and 49 issues featuring words and artwork by people from all over the world. This work is a love letter to our community and to you, our readers, so we are infinitely grateful that you have been with us so far.
If you would like to celebrate our birthday and support the work we do, any and all contributions would be tremendously helpful for us to continue.
And as far as this month, we offer blooms, wings, and blue mountains.
Next month we continue with our theme
Submission guidelines can be found here.
Thank you again, for everything.
I once wore wings
that crisscrossed against my spine,
pulled tighter than ever,
they held me together like the stitches
that bloodstained my brother’s palm
after a jagged hi-five.
a serrated edge clutched by my sister
peeled apart his skin.
our love does stupid shit like that,
like how I took her green top
and severed it to a halter.
something that would fit me better.
our love knows survival
our love is locked in the attic
our love is big and roofless.
we pushed dad’s spine into a potted plant,
the soil and vines spilling out, our roots
proving hard to contain.
I once wore wings stapled to my clothes,
these abnormal things I could remove
when I wanted to be ignored.
have you ever used a staple remover
to pluck away your grief?
your mother left, I stayed
was what I heard as he pinched
a tick from my skin with his bare hands,
our hands with our identical scars,
my scar blooming from multiple car horns.
I once wore wings made of
my family’s hands.
they kept me grounded, that is
they kept me from ever leaving.
I once wore wings
that came undone at the seam.
they looked like two baby birds
falling from their nest,
right next to the trunk of their tree.
Jessica “Jess” Ballen is a queer, Jewish, neurodivergent poet who is currently working on their MFA in creative writing at Antioch University. They live in Eugene, OR with their husband, three cats, and two guinea pigs. Their book “Kosher” was released in early 2023.
If I Could Be Anyone
I’d be myself, again, on that January
Monday morning in Des Moines with
a styrofoam coffee from a cafe at the back
of the gas station. Hash browns. Dense snow.
Regular work. The soft crack of the cup
between my thighs as I dip the car over the
curb of the parking lot. I feel the shifting weight
of the threadbare duffel bag in the passenger
seat full of beer cans I’ve been drinking in
the bleached bathtubs of motel rooms, my
laptop propped on the toilet seat so I can watch
TV shows where children make all the same
mistakes as me. The cans are muffled
by knit sweaters I found in the one dollar bin
at a Minnesota Salvation Army, and age-soft
books stolen from a library in the suburbs.
Chicago. I look out the windshield past my hands,
not tattooed yet, my last manicure glossed still.
Take a hot sip. Downshift. Tap my grandfather’s ring
against the steering wheel at the final red light
of the town. Push eight-five. Des Moines. Anonymity.
Toward the yellow grasses, a gradient of blue mountains.
Mo Fowler is a poet and MFA candidate at UC Irvine and the author of the chapbook Sit Wild, published by Finishing Line Press. Their writing can be found in Rust + Moth, Motley Mag, Zone 3 Magazine, and elsewhere.