Portrait of a Womb as Painted by Flies by Ashley Dailey

My doctor tells me I am as full
& empty as a window.

Actually, what she says is polyps.
I imagine mushrooms growing

along my insides,
delicate umbrellas glowing in the dark.

I am forest floor: network of one thing
but not another.

On NPR, I hear a story about maggots
used to clean wounds.

They eat dead or dying skin,
prevent the spread of disease.

A woman nearly loses
her feet to July’s sunbaked asphalt.

She says, I have a high tolerance for heat.
She describes the tickle

of maggots rolling beneath skin,
she host to hundreds of babies.

The heartbreak when they are excavated—
smashed garlic on a scalpel.

Home smells sweet & rotten.
I peel soft bananas off the counter, replace them.

(my self is the only thing inside myself)

Each afternoon sunlight finds my kitchen table between
the hours of not long & enough.

How do flies get in?—there is a maggot-sized gap
dividing wound & womb.

Flies pepper the window,
my fingers—sticky with what they want.

 

Poet Ashley Dailey is an MFA candidate in the creative writing program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she is a poetry editor for Grist Journal and host of the virtual reading series Chiasmus. She is the winner of an Academy of American Poets Prize and has most recently been published by Peatsmoke Journal and Oddville Press

aubade/alba by Isaura Ren

before the dusk shrugs off its
            velvet, let me wrap us up.
you understand some moments must
            be private, clutched so tight the
tendons tremble. others may lay bare
            their naked faces to the sun—
not us, not quite yet. not with you
            in me in you, hand on hand
on pillow. never mind the threat of
            day that’s spilled along the sill.
never mind the neighbors, the glare
            of their headlights. where
curtains fail, our blankets never will,
            this silk cocoon our kingdom.
knight me. make me a body worthy
            of flight. i’ll draw my wings
against the coup of dawn, a shield
              for you and me. like this,
we’ll flit from room to room, moths
              on the wrong side of the glass,
fleeing its eastern rise and languid
              western fall. let’s soar past
hallways and laundry, avoid the
            cold of open doors, let in no
ghosts but each other. you could stay
            forever if we time this right.

 

Isaura Ren (she/they) is a poet, writer, and the Editor-in-Chief of perhappened mag. Her poems have appeared in After the PauseKissing DynamiteSea Foam Mag, and more. She would do anything for love, but she won’t do that. Find her on Twitter @isaurarenwrites.

Fehler by Lauren Parker

I know from all of the work around poems that they are supposed to mean something. Even if that something is yelled with coffee breath at someone else as you bang your fist upon the table of a writing workshop that you saved up to go to and you’re going to make the most of dammit. So let me start by saying this poem is about rain falling.

The rain fell as I counted six large rocks I kicked with my right toe before I tried a rock too big for my toes and too sharp for my feelings and despite being angry already and being angrier still, I felt all the fire go out of me.
I change my mind, this poem is about sadness. Sadness is just anger you had already that wastes your time and the toes of your shoes.

The anger I had already burned me awake in the mornings, and I paced the floor of our shitty apartment with the dog piss seeped deep into the carpet padding so we couldn’t get it out, even though it wasn’t our dogs and it wasn’t our piss and it wasn’t our carpet. The stains were ours. The smells were ours. We paid for them.
Let me start again, this poem is actually about carpet maintenance.

The carpet is where every speck of skin I shed and you shed and we shed all landed to keep the ones from before company. The carpet was angry with skin cells, in that they were there before and would be there after us and would continue to collect until someone ripped up the carpet or burned the place down.
This poem is about loss, we lost each other and gained a carpet.

When we lost each other my life was brittle and vitamin deficient. The fire in my chest burned so hot I was molten while molting, a volcano shedding crust, journal entries were just lists of things you missed, bullet points of how I’d changed and you didn’t see them.
This poem is just a list.

The list is now my past. It’s a to-do of what I have done or has been done to me, grains of sand eroded and deposited and I’m now new current, new coral, new fish.
This poem is actually about the ocean, which I now live near.

I live near this ocean and I have only been once, waded up to my waist to forget some new old love, and feel the shifting of ground under me until I am just kicking against tide. I do not care that it is cold, I do not care that my toes are numb and have kicked six large rocks. My scratched skin angry and throbbing and the water soothes it.
This poem is about how cold kisses can be the best ones.

 

Lauren Parker is a writer based in Oakland. She’s a graduate of Hiram College’s Creative Writing program and has written for The Toast, The Tusk, Ravishly, The Bold Italic, Daily Xtra, Pulp Magazine, and Autostraddle. She’s the winner of the Summer of Love essay contest in The Daily Californian and the Vachel Lindsay poetry prize, and is the author of the zine My Side of Our Story. She produces a monthly reading series in the Bay Area called Cliterary Salon, and embarrasses her family on Twitter @laurenink.

Dear Kevin by Parker Logan

Your cologne smells like what my grandfather wore
to church on Saturday afternoons, sliding on, over his black dress socks,
his older-than-dirt penny loafers with a small
brown shoe horn, cornering in his foot with the gentleness
of an alligator easing it’s way from the cold waters of a river
to the warm muddy banks of a runoff pond.
He would leave us to go to church, then, which I was happy about
because it meant more time to myself
and the television and less time with him watching me do that.
I could be who ever I wanted, watching shows with superheroes
and scientists who bred their babies in a bottle.
He would be back in an hour and a half and complain
about traffic on I-4 before seeing me and my brothers in the living room
watching cartoons where the devil had claws
and was man in a woman’s gown, and he’d whistle and say
hey guys, let’s cut it out, meaning the TV, and he’d walk
to the remote and turn it off, throwing that too-strong-
to-take-deep-breaths cologne at us, the one that smells just like
your cologne does, Kevin, as you douse yourself at the foot
of our bunk beds and decorate the whole house
in an aroma of shut-that-gay-crap-off smell, that too-polite-
to-be-anything-more-than-stern waft. Under pretense of being the good guy,
the neighbor who takes care of his lawn, you’ve got claws
the sizes of wine bottle openers, wit like a brick
and a smell so keen it makes me want to throw up:
I don’t like you Kevin Avila. I don’t like you one bit.

 

Parker Logan is a student at Florida State University and is the president of FSU’s Poetry Club. His work has been featured in The Daily Drunk, and is forthcoming in The Allegheny Review and Pretty Owl Poetry.

stillborn by Chlesea Balzer

night heaves its weight
at the half-wild farm.

I have filled my day with words
no one would sing —

sadness like tussocks parading the ground.
today the crisis could not take me.

my body became new machinery.
finally alone with it, I turn in.

each feeling needs all of the senses.
denial has done the hard work

of admitting only the truth I could hear.
it held the heavy base of a joy I mistook as my own.

now handed over, I take up the pain:
burst balloon. rinse torn tissue away.

not all blood is a sign of injury —
the body’s doors open.

we cannot say when a thing
must be put back, buried, begun.

some babies are born on the kitchen floor
in the swift grace of choicelessness.

our ask is to lay out soft blankets
and wait with what’s in labor,

to recycle the pleasure that’s passed.
sighing back breaches of sorrow,

I lie down next to its face
and hum.

 

Chelsea Balzer is a therapist, writer, and the founder of Big Feels Lab, an organization empowering people to heal from injustice together. Her writing has been featured in a variety of publications including Elephant Journal, Plainsongs, Cigar City, and Omaha Magazine, and her debut book, A PITY PARTY IS STILL A PARTY, is forthcoming from Harper Wave. Follow her work at chelseabalzer.com or on instagram at @theconnectionartist.

Hierarchy of Hunger by Anthony Aguero

My dad burned most of our memorabilia
From childhood — just like that, poof,

A snake crawls between my thighs

And excretes the poison, I mean love,
I mean Here are my images

Bathed in sunlight — gone.
A man sucks the vitamin E from my body

And massages the place a scar should be.
Here are my lips: red and aroused.

I try to remember a litany of hungers:

The first and last drug as actual serpent.
A series of fires on a cold, cold night.
How I bite into the neck of man’s body.

My spine always in search of memory.
The sound of my hunger breaking through.

 

Anthony Aguero is a queer writer in Los Angeles, CA. His work has appeared, or will appear, in the Bangalore Review, 2River View, The Acentos Review, The Temz Review, Rhino Poetry, Cathexis Northwest Press, 14 Poems, and others.

Bath by Gretchen Rockwell

There is something about the final rising
into the sweet hanging air, whole body
perfumed and heavy, that I appreciate.
I imagine it’s how the frilled shark feels
as it trawls its way through the bathypelagic
zone with its green-lit eyes and feathery teeth.
I once called the frilled shark cute to a friend
and she told me that in fact, it was terrifying,
but she was glad I loved it because everything
needs to be loved: the frilled shark and its prey,
the scientists who gave the midnight zone its name,
the person who made my bath bomb. Even my body
as I dredge it up from the shallow depths of my bathtub,
the scent it now carries as I move through the dark.

 

Gretchen Rockwell is a queer poet currently living in Pennsylvania. Xe is the author of the microchapbooks, love songs for godzilla (Kissing Dynamite) and Thanatology (Ghost City Press), and xer work has appeared in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Poet Lore, FOLIO, FreezeRay Poetry, Moonchild Magazine, and elsewhere. Gretchen enjoys writing poetry about gender and sexuality, history, myth, science, space, and unusual connections – find xer at www.gretchenrockwell.com or on Twitter at @daft_rockwell.

one day when I become a museum by Juliana Chang

one day when I become a museum
little girls are gonna walk by
my mouth
and point with two hands.

they’ll tug on their mothers’ shirts
and ask
what’s that tongue
sitting all pretty like that for
and what’s that thing that swings
like cold honey
and is that the whole sun I see in there
and isn’t that where the water wants to go—

how come we let it be
just there
like that?

 

Juliana Chang is a Taiwanese American poet. She is the 2019 recipient of the Urmy/Hardy Poetry Prize, the 2017 recipient of the Wiley Birkhofer Poetry Prize, and a 2015 Scholastic Art & Writing Gold Medalist in Poetry. She received a BA in Linguistics and a MA in Sociology from Stanford University in 2019.

Weeds by Ivana Gatica

I felt you in my skin long after you left.
Under the dermis,
hair follicles growing out of me —

Thick and stuck just before reaching the surface.
I tried to itch you out of me.
Scratch you raw.
Pull you out with pincers.

The skin is the largest organ in the body.
You grew all over mine like a weed, a rash of
Dandelions,
Stinging nettle,
Crabgrass,
Pigweed.

I prayed you would bloom from within me in
soft petals and leaves
that I could cultivate come Spring.

 

Ivana Gatica is a Mexican-born, Chicago-based writer and a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has earned an honorable mention on Glimmer Train and has been published in the print and online issues of Fifth Wednesday Journal.

inarticulate by Angelina Martin

what a deep dumb hell it is to be
subjected to the storm of myself
violently flung about
by malicious memory
nearly drowned by my own
convictions
to crawl my way to the border of the surface
to gasp for air and cry for relief
that I did not receive the death I begged for
and when I try to warn
the clueless shore huggers
of the treacherous depths of pain
lurking in the vast wet dark
all that comes out
of my reckless child mouth is:
            “WATCH OUT! BIG ROCK!”

 

Angelina Martin is a writer, comedian, artist, waitress, and jock based in Austin, Texas. She has previously been published in Inconnu Magazine, Sea Foam Mag, and Be About It Press, as well as in the book Anthology: The Ojai Playwrights Conference Youth Workshop 2006-2016. Her stand up and poetry both repeatedly touch on themes of sexuality, loneliness, and the lifelong process of healing from trauma. Find her on Twitter at @AngelinaJMartin.