“Befrust” by Gabrielle Lawrence

tom hill

Image by Tom Hill






Gabrielle Lawrence is a writer and editor. Her writing can be found in The Squawk Back, Rising Phoenix Review, Gravel Magazine, A Gathering Together Journal, Sundog Lit, and others. Even when she isn’t doing the most, she is still in the spirit of much. Follow her on Twitter @gabrielle__l or visit gabrielle-lawrence.com for more info.


“Damocles” by Jennifer Wholey



A haibun


Brush firmly tangled into a deep nest of my hair, I learned about the sword of Damocles from my father one perfect Hawaiian evening. The sun was a picturesque blur of color bleeding on the horizon; I knew the brush must stay in my hair until it set, or I would surely die. I feared the knives asleep in the kitchen island, the balcony of the bedroom loft, my mother’s too-reassuring smile. I needn’t be afraid, my father said, of a sword hanging over my head by a horse’s hair, lest I waste away wondering when it might drop.


Sea swallows sunlight:

treading water endlessly,

fear digs in its heels









Jennifer Wholey is a poet, journalist and editor. She is an AWP Writer to Writer Mentee, and a reader for Palette Poetry. Her work has recently been published in Panoply, and Sheila-Na-Gig’s ‘Under 30’ collection. She earned a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in communication (and medieval studies) from Cornell University. Jennifer lives in upstate New York with her husband and two dogs.

“Dead Trees” by Chloe Smith

susan eder

Image by Susan Eder

You laugh, loud and clear,

At my look of pure horror

When you tell me what paper is.

Careful, you’ll stick like that, love –

You said, as I blink at the thin page,

As barely there as my pale skin.

Not at all rough, like its body outside,

That glimmers with bright baubles,

Even when it’s not nearly Christmas.

There is no shine here, no warmth,

Like the pies, golden, and sweet –

Or presents, and smiles. Just nothing.

The lack of, the after,

Empty plates and frowns –

It reminds me of the stones,

Dry, blank, and rough, just standing there

In the long, loud grass. Like dead trees –

Only at least they have names,

Scratched into them, like promises, reminders,

So they aren’t just stuck, bare, in the cruel wind.

I asked you for a pen. You didn’t ask why –

But your face scrunched up when I wrote my name

Then flattened again, like a page, bent over, turning…

You understood where I was going, I think,

So you whipped it out of my hand, quick –

Told me I was too young for that kind of thing. The after.

But trees get cut down all the time –

I just didn’t want this one to die

With empty branches.

Reaching out, waving, just for someone

To sit, just for a second. Join them

Before they go, and get split, alone and scared, into paper,

Like this one, a single page, shaking in my still hand,

It’s not fair –

The least I can do is be there, Mum,

Give them something, a sign, a covering, comfort –

Even if only in spirit. In shining wet ink.







Chloe Smith is a disabled and autistic writer and poet from the UK. She is a Foyle Young Poet of the Year 2015, and her poetry has been published in the Honest Ulsterman, TERSE. Journal, Rose Quartz Journal, Cauldron Anthology and more. Her flash fiction has been published in Ellipsis Zine, TRAIN, Three Drops From a Cauldron and The Ginger Collect. For more about her writing, please visit her website: https://chloesmithwrites.wordpress.com/. You can also find her on Twitter: @ch1oewrites.

“Bloodbath” by Aremu Adams Adebisi

eve atkins

Image by Eve Atkins



A meal is bought with blood,

and then, chaos of hard clay.

You linger in nudity, the night


is serrated in embarrassment;

rusty mist, absence of flowers,

a floodtide of dust & shadows.


Your eyes fall into the crevice

of sound & quietude, an escape

for boys who pray themselves


into guns of empty cartridges.

I write with your life & my own

when all is made equal & each


follows the pattern to emptiness.

When smells are the carnage

of our skins that we bear in vows


to the renewal of paradise.

The wind flits me in its infinite palm

to the other side of the ritual


where I soak myself in water,

my past cleansed to the urgency

of a foreign god. Where we find


a religion in your burden that lays

before us, & musing on parchments,

we pray upon your corpse

while you are alive.







Aremu Adams Adebisi lives close to the riverine and loves to eat shrimps and crayfish. A boy among five older girls, explores the themes of equality, liberation, womanism, boyhood and existentialism. He has works published in Mistymountain Review, Kalahari Review, Africanwriters, and elsewhere. He likes to call himself the Jos-plateau Indigobird which is endemic to Nigeria and one of a kind.

“Young, Black, Wild & Free is the Dream” by Vanessa Maki

System Log


Unlike a lot of black artists, Janelle has no problem being unapologetic about her blackness. She doesn’t dismiss her experiences as a black woman or make light of them. Nor does she water down the reality of what life is like for her. That’s one thing that often gets left out of the conversation in terms of Dirty Computer. Mainly that happens when non black critics of color and white critics mention the album: that Janelle is being vocal about her struggles as not only being queer but being black too. Since her identity is intersectional – it makes life that much harder.

The intro of “Crazy, Classic, Life” is very important for the song itself. It’s an interpolation and excerpt of “The Declaration of Independence.” Following that is one of the boldest lines in the song – “Young, Black, Wild and Free,” then “Naked in a Limousine,” which highlights nakedness as freedom. The idea of actual freedom is lost, especially for those of us who are black. The world consistently reminds me that I’m not really free. It dangles that idea and the idea that we live in free countries (US + Canada).

In Verse 2,  Janelle highlights her lack of desire for marriage. She just wants to live her life without being held back and told by the world that she can’t be herself. To live in this world means a lot of compromising of self, and this world becomes more and more dangerous for black bodies.  The world in Dirty Computer’s short film, while fictional, is a depiction of the world. And how it treats “dirty computers.” We’re only “free” if we conform and suppress what makes us “dirty.” Unapologetic blackness is seen as wrong.

Yet here Janelle is, here a lot of us are, not suppressing our blackness. Not silencing ourselves. Even if we may not be completely free.





Vanessa Maki is a queer writer,artist & other things. She’s full of black girl magic & has no apologizes for that. Her work has appeared in various places like Really System & others. She is also forthcoming in a variety of places. She’s founder/EIC of rose quartz magazine & is involved in other spaces as well. Follow her twitter & visit her site.

“Science news: Octopuses came to Earth from space as frozen eggs millions of years ago” by Caroline Grand-Clement

by eric persson

Image by Eric Perrson

(after an article by Ciaran McGrath in Express)

i am too colorful for their
fragile eyes so i
hide in empty
vases, shapeshift into
silent pride.
they have called me
too complicated
on eight different occasions
& eight times i have
screamed back coward.
afraid of what they cannot
figure out they have broken
my hope to ever find
a home again. i orbit
around this planet of blues,
seep into its belly,
resurface only to wrap
my arms around their
sorry throats.
i am an alien
with too many arms &
not enough bones in my body
to call it a graveyard.




Caroline Grand-Clement is a seventeen years old, half-time poet, half-time student at an international school in Lyon, France. She dreams of art in any form, falling stars & late night conversations. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Beyond the Shallows, an anthology by L’Éphémère Review, Rose Quartz Journal, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram @octopodeshearts.

A Discussion with Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days, discussions



Jordannah Elizabeth is an established writer, activist, and musician from Baltimore and has been a featured columnist with TERSE. since 2016. EIC M. Perle Tahat talked with her about the future of her column and also got a bonus reading list out of it. Check it out for yourself.

M. Perle Tahat: You’re a voracious reader and have blessed us with several reading lists throughout the course of your column. A difficult task, albeit one I will ask you to do–as I’m sure you could sense the lead up, is listing your favorite books from your repertoire. Would you mind telling readers your top 10?

Jordanah Elizabeth: Sure. My own library is pretty diverse. I actually have 15 favorites. My library isn’t that large, maybe about 150-200 books, give or take.  The order is not “favorite to least favorite” or vice versa. Some of these books have already been published in reading lists I’ve already compiled, but they are true loves of my personal library:

  • When and Where I Enter by Pauline Giddens
  • The Rosy Crucifixion by Henry Miller
  • The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  • Once by Alice Walker
  • Anarchy and the Sex Question by Emma Goldman
  • Masculinity Studies & Feminist Theory: New Directions edited by Judith Kegan Gardiner
  • Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens and Mai’a Williams
  • This is How We Survive: Revolutionary Mothering, War, and Exiles in the 21st Century by Mai’a Williams (published January 1, 2019)
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay
  • Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom
  • Sound Figures by Theodor W. Adorno
  • Death Kit by Susan Sontag
  • The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft by Robert S. Boynton
  • Writing in Society by Raymond Williams




M. Perle Tahat: What a holistic list. Your readings always vary widely and I learn a lot from what you share. On Publik/Private you present writerly encouragement and advice, introspection on topics you are passionate about, and generally allow us access to your intellectual and creative space. One of the reasons I admire you so much is your rounding of so many different spheres of life. You are also a traveling musician and local activist. What drives you to all of these pursuits? When did you start walking this path?


Jordannah Elizabeth: I’ve slowed down on touring and playing music for the last couple of years. It put a real toll on my body and I’ve taken time off to focus on my health and writing. But without the experience of being a long time, touring musician, I wouldn’t been a well rounded music writer. I can connect with musicians as a writer because I’ve lived the life and went through their daily struggles for a decade before I started writing full time.

I studied music history and classical vocals from age 16-21 and was always in choirs and chorus from grade school to high school. I don’t think I’ve ever shared this publicly but I played violin in school from age 5 or 6 to age 11.

As a singer/songwriter, I got my first guitar at 13 and played my first show around 17 or 18. I just took all I learned from school and from the music my family loved and made a name for myself as a musician just by sheer drive… of wanting to eat and have a roof over my head.  I also learned about promotions, booking and public relations, so I was able to promote myself pretty well. With all this said, writing and history have always been my main passion.

M. Perle Tahat: The bibliography of your writing career is a long one. If you had to direct readers to the favorite articles you’ve written so far: what would they be?

Jordannah Elizabeth

The Intersectionality of Believability

Sevens: Alice Coltrane – Transfiguration (Live, 1976)

Michelle Coltrane Is Glad Her Mother Alice’s Devotional Music Is Finally Getting Its Due

Dear Men of the Music Industry: You Can Do Better

The slow ascent of hip-hop and Black designers in the world of high fashion


M. Perle Tahat: In the past you’ve given us writings on esoteric topics, invaluable reading lists, and observations on social theory. What can readers expect from your column on TERSE. in the future?

Jordannah Elizabeth: My column, “Braving the Days at TERSE. allowed me some freedom to write about anything that was swirling in my subconscious in connection to my interaction with the outside world. I just plan to continue to do that. Sometimes, when you’re really thoughtful (meaning you think and observe a lot), it’s best not to overwhelm people close to you with your thoughts by always verbalizing them. Many times, people want to help or resolve a problem or give advice, which is a kind and natural thing to want to do for people you care about. But having a place express myself freely without fear of criticism, being misunderstood or worrying others is nice. I’m learning as I get older, saying less is more. Writing more…well, for now, it’s something that gives me some solace.


A photo of Jordannah Elizabeth

“All Myths Precede Truth” by Sam Jowett




Call me the Chosen One.

Concur. Dissent. It is irrelevant. The sword chooses. The pearl-gold of its handle warms only for my palm. Its compass-blade only speaks truth for my soul.

I am the prophecy. Sword descended unto me, freshly forged in the luminous furnaces of the heavens. A blade of star-metal. The tip weighs heavy; it points me towards the mountains.

Towards the beast’s cave.

The scriptures carve out our destinies, etches them in stone. My head adorned with the floral crown of my people. My blade, destined to be thrust upon its wyrm-throat.

The prophecies don’t lie. It is time they be made flesh.


Dragon. Draconem. Nrgwenya

That’s what the humans name me. Their languages so vapid, so simplistic, that all such beings that have wings, that snarl flame between ebony teeth, must be lumped together.

Words cannot do such a body justice. Scales slivers of shaved ruby and topaz, enflamed by the splashes of plasma from my corona-snout.

Words cannot do such might justice. Tail spikes jagged like mountain peaks.

Words cannot do such divinity justice. The blessed will witness soon enough.


The Fist of the Gods. The title precedes me.

Doltish perhaps, but ritual weighs down on my city. I must partake. Body paints and incense upon tiered pyramids. Chants and meditation suites from priests. My body is a tapestry, a cataclysmic swirl of events yet to unfold.

Twin hawks descended the Talon of the Gods to me. The spear plunged from the sky, a platinum teardrop smeared across the nightscape. It reverberates now, strapped to my back, embracing my turquoise skin.

The asphalt crust of the volcano crumbles beneath. It gives away to glassed obsidian as hot as oven grilles. What else could it be but the breath of the demon?

Underneath the tectonic bones of the mountains I will find its lair. The one who drenches liquid flame upon our cities, whose soot breath exhales from the cracked summits.

I have the Talon of the Gods, I cannot lose.


My home is Ptolemaic. Circles within circles. The ruins of civilizations orbit my great body, caught in the cyclonic frenzy of my beating wings. Monuments of kingdoms, statues of gods, thrones of rulers, they crash and detonate upon one another.

Hungry for space, desperate for relevance–they’re all ruins now. Antiques. Collectables.

Amongst them riches. Jewels and gold and other fallible currency. It glimmers like prismatic stardust upon my being; ephemeral shivers of wealth from cities long gone.


I did not want to be the Son of Sons.

Not a name granted by myself, nor my rulers, but rather from the solar dance above. Where others’ skin is blistered raw, mine glows and bathes, cursed symbols charred upon bronzed flesh.

The astral blade is removed from the eternal forge. It sears into my flesh as I grasp it. Is this how all swords feel? I did not ask for this. I do not want this.

But between the will of the gods and the will of mortals, who can win?

They adorn me lavishly, the royals and the peasants. They carry me to the sinkhole. Towards the maw that swallows all sand around it. Far down in the depths of the earth, an ember glow shines like a fallen planet. It taunts me. My protests fall into it, slipping past unwilling ears.

The one who receives the kiss of the sun is meant to slay the furnace serpent. It is written in the sandstone cliffs. With that, I will erase the desert. The world will bloom again, it will gush greens and blues and flowers and animals. These promises are inscribed in dance around me, and then I am pushed.

The sinkhole swallows greedily. The world goes black, and then scarlet.

And then it sears.


I am the center.

Center of earth. All tunnels lead to me. All rock flows back to my throat, I bathe in their molten states.

Center of prophecy. I am magnetic. All myths swarm to me. All of their swords and omens and chosen ones. All heroes need monsters, and all monsters need food.

 My sons and daughters, my loyal metals. They crave to return. Swords and spears. Such good servants, in the grasp of such tender flesh. It grows so lonely here. Let the heroes come. The Fists of Gods. The Sons of Sons. Chosen Ones. All cultures attempt to deface the primal, all civilizations try to smite the gods.

Yet who remains?

Who always remains?

All myths do precede truth.

And all myths will outlast it.

Land crushes on my coal-heart singularity. It will crush.

And crush.

And crush.

Until only ash remains.






Sam Jowett is a non-binary writer living in Toronto. They enjoy molten eyeshadow and spicy Khao Soi. You can find their work in Hypertrophic Literary, Moonchild Magazine, formercactus, and–if you’re feeling brave–in the centre of the Earth. Follow them on Twitter @absurdeum

“Sick at Work” by Dona McCormack



Yuki cramped over double and dropped a clot of blood into the toilet. Both lips bit down between teeth and she clawed the slick, silver poles she couldn’t see through the wash of pain snow. White ice uterus in shreds and breath burst from her nostrils with another little plop, plop into the bowl. Knees like water as the blade in her belly melted to lava. Black frosting on the crotch of her favorite purple silk panties with the pink lace accents. She lifted the thin barrier between her body and her creamy beige pants. Released her lips in a blood-tinted inhale of relief that no leaks had made it through. Suddenly aware of the yawning gap at the bottom of the bathroom stall, she pulled her pants and underwear up, pinning them in place with the tension of her spread knees.

Irregular bleeds could mean a few things, but they often meant Yuki getting caught in the bathroom without protection for her underwear. And she was not prepared with the five quarters she needed to arm herself with the sanitary napkins in the bathroom’s wall dispenser. She scraped at the oxygenated blood in her panties with dry toilet paper and tried not to cry. She wanted to talk to Butch, who would at the moment be perched on the couch, making smart-aleck remarks at The Talk, which she loved. She could tell Butch about her irregular bleeds and painful uterus and ovary garbage. He would ruffle his mohawk and pinch his face and screech in his grating voice, “Son of a bitch!” Since that about summed up how she felt about her uterus and ovaries most of the time, his company and response in these times was what she wanted most. But Butch was an eight-mile uber ride across town.

And an eight-minute walk outside the bathroom door sat her tidy desk with her aloe plant and her picture of Butch in a red frame. The phone, she knew, was a dazzle of red lights, because she was in aux eight. That counted against her time management, which counted against her review, which counted against her salary and her bonus. A cramp of anxiety gripped her as she thought of aux eight. Yuki unspooled the rough stuff from the roll next to her and wove it around the crotch of her underwear. She knew from experience it would turn to gravel in her crotch, but it was still better than nothing. She peeked between her legs.


She reached behind her and flushed.

“That’s new.”

She stood up and pulled up her pants. The lava in her belly shifted down and settled. “That’s new too.” She grabbed her purse and stepped out of the stall. Froze on her way to the door. She stared at her reflection. Her skin looked like daffodils, and her eyelids where they wilted brown. Her lips still bled and swelled where she’d bit them. She stepped to the sink and tended her lips, but the cuts were deep. In her purse, beneath a tiny sealed clay jar of her mother’s burnt bone and ashes, she found makeup. Makeup fixes everything.

Three steps from her desk, Yuki’s knees slipped and slid like water. She could see Butch’s picture—his white plumage magnificent, his beak open in a joyful squawk, his keen black eyes following the camera. She focused on him to get her to her comfortable ergonomic chair, geared to her perfect settings. She fell into her seat. The lava in her belly spread upward. Her pants squelched.

She reached for her headset, wanted to relieve the phone of its many pinging lights. She wanted to work. But her fingers felt slippery. For that matter, she thought as she ran a finger across her forehead, all of her felt wet and slick. Her neighbor-across-the-divider glanced at her, did a double take, his eye’s filling with concern. Mark’s salt-and-pepper spikes and forehead and blue eyes—the view she was used to—became a full man as he stood up and said into his headset, “Mr. Phares, I have just poured piping hot coffee on myself, I’m going to have to put you on hold.”

Seconds later he leaned over the divider and asked, “What’s wrong with you?”

Yuki froze. She trusted Mark. But he wasn’t Butch. Could she tell Mark her ovaries were rioting and maybe trying to kill her right here in her seat? Would he think her inappropriate for having a body with a uterus and ovaries that got sick at work?

Prickles of ice began to stab her in the eyes and tickle her fingers and toes. Bursts of light and rainbow colored the edges of Mark’s face and hair. She couldn’t tell him. Couldn’t admit having those body parts. Not to him. She sank further into the lava in her chair.

Butch swam to her out of the swirling light. “I’m sorry, bird,” she mumbled.

“What? Yuki!” Mark tore off his headset and all but vaulted the divider. “Noodle, what the hell is going on?” He pelted around his desk and hers to kneel by her chair.

“Maybe you’ll outlive us both.”


Dona McCormack is a queer, disabled writer living in Northeast Ohio with their partner of 19 years, our 5 fuzzbutts, and their too-big turtle named Bob in her 65-gallon tank. They are completing their Master’s thesis in English and Creative Writing from SNHU. They write short stories and my publishing credits include Tahoma Literary Review, Helen Literary Magazine, and Postcards Poems and Prose Magazine.