not written a love poem
since the last
time I was
crossing a busy
that thick black braid trailing
down and running
to reach it
so now I am
writing a love poem
like a fool who is
that black hair curled this
time around stepping off the
curb in time to be
hit and killed and
smiling all the way
MANY OF ME
How many of me
or those like me
are hovering birdlike,
their bodies, looking
down and knowing
this is not something
to drink from. This
is not a pink dahlia.
This not the body
we can survive off,
but it is all we have.
HAVE I LOST
God! Have I lost that
Thing I had that made people go
OH this is a poem! OH this is a thing which makes me know
This is a hand pulling off a veil in some
old gothic where the face underneath is beautiful maybe either that
or it is hideous and you watch cause it is writhing and ready to speak
This is digging a nail into the dimple of a cutie nectarine and opening it and splitting it into
All of its pieces
So that we can all share it while we are at lunch in kindergarten
And so that we may each tear into it with
That vigor that only children have
Hollis Teves is a non-binary queer poet who lives and works in Orange, CA and San Diego, CA. Their work has previously appeared in Calliope, Sapere Aude, The Messy Heads, Neologism Poetry Journal, and elsewhere, and they are the co-editor-in-chief of The Fruit Tree. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @unisexlove.
Facebook Fundraiser For Quail Bell Magazine’s Her Plumage Anthology To Benefit National Gender Violence Nonprofit
Facebook Fundraiser For Quail Bell Magazine’s Her Plumage Anthology
To Benefit National Gender Violence Nonprofit
The anthology will include work by women writers to benefit She Is Rising, a national nonprofit devoted to supporting survivors of gender-based violence. Please help us spread the word on your platform!
This summer, Eudaimonia Press (New York City) will release Her Plumage, a benefit anthology curated and edited by Quail Bell Magazine (Brooklyn, NY), featuring a variety of contemporary women’s writing from the publication. All proceeds will go to She Is Rising (Austin, TX), a national nonprofit dedicated to helping the survivors of gender violence. Her Plumage, Quail Bell’s third anthology, will be published in early summer 2019. The title will include many pieces from regular female contributors, as well as the team’s favorite submissions from women writers world-wide. This includes the work of founding editor, Christine Sloan Stoddard (b. Arlington, VA), an author and artist based in Brooklyn. The magazine previously published two anthologies from Richmond, VA-based publisher, Brandylane Publishers/Belle Isle Books: Airborne: An Anthology of the Real and The Nest: An Anthology of the Unreal.
Because the anthology is benefiting charity, Quail Bell has launched a Facebook fundraiser in order to provide each contributor and editor a copy of the anthology. They are aiming to raise $1,200 to cover expenses by April 29, 2019. Please spread the word about the fundraiser in articles, blog posts, and social media, and consider donating today:
About Quail Bell: Quail Bell Magazine is a feminist publication and community for real and unreal stories from around the world. We have a special love for the imaginary, nostalgic, and otherworldly. Our go-to spell? Art + Ideas = Magic. Read the mission statement here.
Christine Sloan Stoddard/"Luna Lark"
Founder, Quail Bell Magazine
We tell real and unreal stories.
Current Books--Airborne: An Anthology of The Real and The Nest: An Anthology of The Unreal
We are thrilled to announce that Eudaimonia Press is collaborating with the wonderful Quail Bell Magazine to publish Her Plumage, a collection women's writings from the regular contributors at Quail Bell Magazine. All of the proceeds from the sales of Her Plumage will be donated to She Is Rising, an incredible organization in Austin, Texas that helps survivors of human trafficking. Her Plumage will be hitting the bookshelves early this summer. Stay tuned!
Reclaiming My Worth after Trafficking and Sexual Assault
By Brooke Axtell
Brooke Axtell’s performance at the Grammys left millions of viewers and media outlets—from the Washington Post to Rolling Stone—wondering: Who is she? Beautiful Justice: Reclaiming My Worth after Trafficking and Sexual Assault (Seal Press; April 2, 2019) answers that question. More importantly, her book offers a new theory of justice around sexual abuse: one that empowers survivors and focuses on what they deserve, rather than limiting justice to what happens in the courtroom. Though Axtell feels strongly that perpetrators should be held accountable and has helped women testify against their assailants, she is also realistic about the impact those efforts can have: 90% of perpetrators will never spend a day in jail. Axtell notes, “even when I've been a part of successful prosecutions, it doesn’t set survivors free from the impact of the trauma.”
Axtell was seven years old when her male nanny raped her repeatedly and brought her to parties where he sold her body—all while claiming that her sinful nature was forcing him to do so. Like many survivors of childhood sexual trauma, feelings of worthlessness and shame instilled by her abuser led Axtell into unhealthy relationships as an adult—including the one she spoke about at the Grammys. Years later, when she finally revealed the abuse to her parents, Axtell knew that true justice wouldn’t come through the courts. She would have to create it herself. She explains: “Even if my perpetrator spent the rest of his life in prison, it wouldn’t give me what I deserve: to heal, to thrive, and to reclaim my life.”
Beautiful Justice, Axtell writes, “is the integration of inner healing and cultural healing, recovery of the individual, and the movement for social change.” To show how it works in practice, Axtell shares her personal story alongside lessons learned from her work as a mentor and advocate for fellow survivors of sex trafficking. In the process, Axtell writes, “I am redefining justice to include and honor our well-being as survivors… We are no longer waiting for someone else to set us free.”
Brooke Axtell is the founder and director of She Is Rising, a healing community for women and girls overcoming rape, abuse, and sex trafficking. Based in Austin, Texas, she is a writer, speaker, performing artist, and activist.
Reclaiming My Worth after Trafficking and Sexual Assault
By Brooke Axtell
Published by Seal Press/Basic Books
Today my teacher told me something private. I knew she was lying, but I listened to her anyway. I love Ms. Kaur.
She tucked in a few strands of her black hair under her white turban and whispered it in my ear.
In our classroom, there was me and Ms. Kaur, we sat at the head table with Ms. Paula and some other kids. Table One. Then there were two other teachers, Ms. Juanita at Table Two and Ms. Henrietta at Table Three. All the kids at all the tables were bad kids. I don’t know who decided that this school was the best school for me. I cried when I first came, but the teachers shook their heads and turned their faces away. They thought I heard things that were not there, they thought I saw things that were not there. They thought I did not know that the world was not real.
“When I was your age,” Ms. Kaur whispered, “I couldn’t read.”
But how could that have been? Ms. Kaur knew all sorts of things and she always answered our questions, at least when Ms. Paula was not in the room.
I suppose all grown-ups lie. They lie about how much they give you, they lie about how much food you eat, they lie about how bad you are. They lie about how hard it is to love you.
I expected her to be different than the rest because Ms. Kaur finds us all easy to love. She always tells me that I am smart. As smart as any child she has ever known, smart as any adult. A sagacious young man, she says.
“How you pick up and delight in words, Josué, like a child collecting seashells.”
I suppose Ms. Kaur did not want me to think I was the only one who struggled, so that is why she told me her lie. But she didn’t have to do that. This made me the angriest I could be. I yelled, “That’s not true!” and before I knew it, Ms. Paula had the quiet room teacher come get me and put me away for the rest of the afternoon.
Tomorrow I will tell Ms. Kaur my own secret and she will believe me because I love her. She knows that I tell the truth.
My name is Josué. I am eight years old and I have never seen the moon. I have dreamed of it, and of the stars, but dreams are dreams. I have never been out at night.
At home, I stay locked in my closet while aunty and grann are out. It’s OK. I have my books and a little light that I use—gifts from my mother. They let me keep that much. Though we never mention her name. The shades cover the windows day in and day out, rain or shine because aunty and grann do things they shouldn’t. No one is to know or see.
No one hears me crying. My aunty reminds me of this whenever she thinks to. She can pick me up with one hand and throw me against the wall. When I say I am hungry, when I say I am mad, she says that I am bad, like a rotten fruit. She says she will smash me until the pulp comes through.
Tomorrow I will ask Ms. Kaur what I have always wanted to know.
“Ms. Kaur, what does the moon look like?”
She will answer me the way someone who loves you answers when all they want is for you to learn and keep learning.
“The moon is a beautiful thing. It shines brightly. The light of the moon cuts through the night. When you see its glow, you are transfixed.”
“What does transfixed mean?” I will ask her even though I know.
“Transfixed means you are captivated by something.”
I will sigh, but she will know that I understand all of these words.
There is another boy, James, who said that he liked buildings. Tomorrow, Ms. Kaur will come to school with a set of real blueprints under her arm. Ms. Paula will tell her that she cannot show them to us. But when Ms. Paula walks out to the bathroom, the prints will be unrolled, we will see the white lines and numbers against the dark blue paper. Ms. Paula will walk back in the room just as James is running his hand over the drawings, imagining he will make constellations like these one day.
Ms. Kaur is not scared of Ms. Paula, like we are. I know she does not like to argue in-front of us, but tomorrow Ms. Paula will yell in her shrillest voice. She will say that Ms. Kaur, the raghead bitch, has no right to show us anything. Then Ms. Kaur will say to Ms. Paula’s face, you have no right to be teaching these children.
It will be Ms. Kaur’s last day at school. When she says goodbye, she will whisper in my ear one more time.
“My beloved,” she will say, “you are proof of my faith. You are proof of something—something immutable, something constant.”
Tomorrow night, I will be the bravest I have ever been. When aunty and grann are asleep, I will unlatch our door. I will take each step down to the street like I am walking on sand. I will walk out into the open air and call out to Ms. Kaur. Will she hear?
Yesterday I will decide to believe Ms. Kaur. Believe every word she says and never get mad, never feel the earth roll under me like a tide. I will look up at the sky and see something for the first time. The stars. The moon, full and bright. I will know the moon will look changed the next day and the next. But I will know it to be constant, its waxing and waning. I will know there is proof of the world.
K Dulai lives in the California, where she works in nonprofit development. She has been published in The Eastern Iowa Review and The Waterbug Digest.
By Serena Agusto-Cox
First scrapbook page
each photo selected with care
a life loved into memory
with each square of sticky tape
each star sticker and caption
We love ourselves,
friends, times together
dark shadows char the edges
sneers of peers, bully barbs
Pull it back
breathe deep into the belly
release the shoulders
blow shadow wisps away with breath
Serena M. Agusto-Cox, a Suffolk University graduate, writes more vigorously than she did in her college poetry seminars. Her day job continues to feed the starving artist, and her poems can be read in Dime Show Review, Baseball Bard, Mothers Always Write, Bourgeon, Beginnings Magazine, LYNX, Muse Apprentice Guild, The Harrow, Poems Niederngasse, Avocet, Pedestal Magazine, and other journals. An essay also appears in H.L. Hix’s Made Priceless, as does a Q&A on book marketing through blogs in Midge Raymond’s Everyday Book Marketing. She also runs the book review blog, Savvy Verse & Wit, and founded Poetic Book Tours to help poets market their books.
*Namaste first appeared in Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens
GOD OF LONELINESS
say something is love
when it isn't & we are
still stuck in it.
THE HOUSE NO ONE LIVES IN
The tenants didn’t speak. At least, no one in the buildings around them ever heard them speak. Really, you’d think the entire building—all four floors in the red-brick brownstone—were empty except for the few times you saw shadowy figures in the windows, distantly looking off to the traffic or the horizon maybe to see what time it was or remember how it looked when they were five years old and waiting for their fathers to come home after work. B looked up at the top floor window, trying to see if anyone was home. He’d ring the doorbell and ask to be let inside, except he can’t.
B doesn’t fit inside the house. B was born too big to live inside a narrow Brooklyn brownstone. D has tried to push him in the doorframe, tried to lift him in the ground floor window, but it’s never worked. Once D suggested that B go on a diet, eat less red meat, but B only cried. That night, he laid in the backyard and stretched his hooves deep into the ground, saw some of the few stars the foggy sky would allow, and wondered why his huge body made him so lonely. All he ever wanted was to be held in a way where he felt held, where he felt seen beyond his long formidable snout and sharp horns, so sharp at the ends that most of the other animals in the neighborhood were afraid of him. Afraid he’d hurt them or break into their homes or steal their money because of the way he looks.
D wasn’t afraid of B, but he just didn’t know what to do. He supposed he could have made an extension to the house in the back like the family next door, but he was also afraid about the kind of message it would send to the others—especially the others in the house, the ones that no one ever saw. D was the only one who ever saw them—he guessed it was just because his uncle was the landlord of the building until he died—and because his uncle didn’t have any kids or family, D took over. Now D lives there alone, his long lanky limbs often pacing back and forth, never sure of what to do or where to go. He wants someone to make those decisions for him, tell him where to walk, where to run, how to play.
Outside at night, the age of speed and new horizons are so close to touch, it seems to B, but how to get there? The trains are too expensive for B right now. Sometimes B is so hopeful, his insides feel like they are going to burst in a dizzying blossom of stars that enfold like flowers. Then other times, sometimes in the very same day, everything feels so lost and his body feels so heavy, the sky crashes like a dark unbreakable shell over him, lined with hardened silver. It was during one of these nights that C came outside, slow like a drop of honey dripping from a glass bottle—confident in her slowness, as if the night would wait for her.
She jumped onto his back as if she knew him for centuries, as if it wasn’t strange to push her body onto his without asking, without consent. B didn’t protest. He laid down on his side and together they sat silent, looking out to the horizon, hearing the chirping of cars and trains and other planets in the far distance. None of it really mattered.
Her First Love
It was the anniversary of her grandmother's death.
Every dog in the neighborhood kept throwing up spoons.
She wanted to watch an old Western, talk on the phone.
Days are only more hours to lie about.
Jacob asked her to come over because it had just been him
& skinny Elvis records all day & he was starting
to see ghosts of Presley, his sister.
He reeked of Newports.
Maggie wasn’t sure who was the ghost.
He tells her he loves her, that he means it.
They kiss & he pretends she is a boy.
Paul & Marianne
They met in kindergarten. His grandmother would drive
Them to school until they went to separate high schools.
Paul wasn't allowed to go to school with girls anymore.
Marianne never understood; he only hung out with girls.
Once they were old enough, he'd pick her up, hair greased
inadvertently in a perfect wave, cool like a relaxed sonata.
One night he snuck inside her house while she was asleep,
waiting for her to wake—imagining all the ways her face
will age. He knew she would only grow lovelier, deadlier
with time. When Marianne woke up, she smiled in relief
like she was coming up for air—this was how Paul knew
he could trust her. Morning light spilled in gleams
over their bodies. Paul told her he wanted to be a dancer,
rent an apartment in the city with a dog & a man.
He was tired of fixing cars so his hands would become
rough. For years, all he wanted were hands that could build.
She already knew, said it was no big deal. They drove away,
passing strangers—wishing they had flowers instead of neighbors.
They entered a house one afternoon
when they were still in elementary
school: a woman dug into the palm
of a man with a metal pin & he
didn't plead or ask her to stop.
They watched his face while she
kept digging for roots of black iron,
oozing waters out of the wound.
He seemed to feel no pain when
she scraped out steaming gunk.
He thanked her, licking the scab--
satisfied only after chewing on
the skin, sucking out the juice &
peeling back to the heart
chirping as a cricket frightened
of a woman with parted legs. In order
to forget what they've seen, they kiss
each other on the lips. They undress
their white stomachs & baby thighs
with charcoal. They, too, want to taste
the meat of the fruit—fearing
the thrill of the chase.
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (ELJ Publications, 2016) & Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and is the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes, Poetry and the managing editor for Civil Coping Mechanisms and Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared in Prelude, BUST, Spork Press, The Feminist Wire, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets. joannavalente.com / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente