“Portrait of a girl and her films” by Anjali Bhavan

Visitants

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take a scalpel to my temple and carve out;

frame your questions and let my dreams splay

out on your petri-dish. ask me what I really want.

and here’s what I’ll tell you: sometimes, I want to

be framed like a Guru Dutt film,

I want to be nothing but cotton balls and luminous

umbrellas shadowing lovers with cups of sake.

I want to hide, blush and drape myself in my

embarrassing ardour. I want to be a black coat and

a graduate’s moustache, perhaps the last blot of grey

ink on a dying poet’s poem for the muse who faded

away and left a stale smell winding through his fingers.

I want to be the sum of all the softness a girl and

her anklets might carry, but I find that I must

crawl through gravel and the back of my weary hands

to get through.

Sometimes, I want to be a Mani Ratnam film: towering

landscapes that fail to eclipse my lust for life, intimate

spaces between lovers I find myself breathing past, the

ceaseless, eternal roar of the seas that raises a crescendo

of completeness in my bloodstream. Maybe I’m just a girl

looking for something new to shatter over.

Sometimes, stories about sad girls around architectural

marvels will do. I could wind myself tight around a

medieval lighthouse, maybe breathe in the loneliness

plastered in its cobblestoned silence, maybe walk around

in thrushes like an invisible blip of my mother’s existence.

Sometimes, poems wearing boots and walking around

in London will do. If poetry didn’t save me and hold me

together like a house holding all its broken windows in

fragile, teetering place – would anyone, then, tie lace

around my fingers and keep me from vanishing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anjali Bhavan is an engineering undergrad. Her work has appeared/is forthcoming in Speaking Tree, Porridge Magazine, Coldnoon International, Allegro Poetry Review and Sooth Swarm Journal among others. She currently writes according to her moods, and looks forward to oddball experiences.

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“On names, identity, and personal mythology” by Lianna Schreiber

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Is it still an identity crisis if what is causing you grief is a fractal self which exists only in another person’s mind?

I am hyper-aware of myself at all times, and whether or not this roots in being a woman is a discussion best left for another time and thought piece, but the fact of it stands — I curate my behavior to the best of my ability whenever I am in public spaces, even if they are just everyday internet hang-outs. I treat each word as if it were a museum piece, analyzing its possible implications so as to not have my meaning be lost in translation by leaving something I consider to be implicit up to my peers’ interpretation. I do this because I know how easily misunderstandings arise.

Even my own self is parsed through the personal lens of every individual I come in contact with: cashiers, delivery boys, bus drivers, random pedestrians. They each apply their prior personal experiences to my image, together with all the preconceptions born from them; and so a paradox arises. Although they see me, they do not really see me.

They see someone who has my body — or, in the case of online spaces, my avatar and type beat — but whose psyche may have nothing in common with my actual self. They see a simulacrum that talks with my voice without possessing my thought process or intent, and I have no control over how they construct this person in their head.

I must admit that I have something of a fascination with the phenomenon of being seen always yet never perceived fully; even my friends and family possess a notion of me that is, at best, a partial overlap with who I am.

And part of this fascination roots in a kind of raw, abject horror — I am at times filled with such genuine despair over the idea that these mirrors of me are still only ever that, an array of imperfect reflections. This in turn is because to me, being loved equates to being understood, and I want an affection that is full and uncompromising; yet all the same here I am, a stranger in small ways to even the people I hold in confidence. Minute discrepancies will always color every interpersonal interaction I have, in much the same way my atoms will never touch. That space is a world in and of itself, and it is one terribly lonesome.

Over the years, I have come to compartmentalize these alien selves. I index them according to the extant level of familiarity, a knowing which is indicated by the name basis someone uses when addressing or otherwise referring to me.

Case in point: to the world I am known by my legal name, half baptism, half inheritance. When it rolls off the tongue, it leaves behind the oilspill of my father’s sins — and swimming in its black trails is enough Orthodox longing to build a church from the ground up. There is distance, here. The world sees me, but it does not understand me, as our level of interaction is built strictly upon formalities and necessity. The agora makes no effort to know me, and so I do not try to extend it explanations.

Ours is a business relationship: I am a blur of letters left behind on government paper in neat uppercase script and the half-formed, nearly unintelligible signature underneath them. And that suits me fine. I believe deeply in the power of words, you see. I believe in their magic.

To name is to tame, as folktales teach us, and we should never give away parts of ourselves if we are not to receive in exchange something of equal value. You have lent me your eyes, and for that I will make you privy to this aspect of my personal mythology.

In naming me, my mother consigned me to two distinguished crosses.

I was given the first name of Liana, as in “vine”, but also as in “God answers”; due to geography, its etymology is at best convoluted, but no matter which map you choose to trace it on it will always lead you back to a kind of paroxysm. My middle name, Andreea, was chosen to honor an old tradition, that of consecrating children to a saint — the association with Andrew the Apostle is thus inextricable. I and half the country bear the lopsided signet of his suffering and piety, and we may only hope to be worthy.

Growing up in an environment where myth bleeds so insidiously into everyday life has made me wary of life’s fine print. Etymology is important; names are, to me, prophetic.

Thus, when I had to assign myself a professional name, I took ample time to deliberate my options. In addition to personal meaning, I took numerology into consideration, too, and eventually christened myself Lianna Schreiber. The second n was added so as to conserve within the letters one of my arc symbols, the number fifteen; Schreiber I chose for its meaning — “scribe”. That is what I am, at the end of the day. A victim of my muses, a prophet rich in only blood, half mad and always, always raving.

Here, the distance has begun to lessen. My name tells you something about me, because you know it was chosen, not given, and you know the why behind that decision.

But to name is also to own, and pet names between friends always carry an inherent contractual aspect. Mine seem to love and think of me in flowers: I have always been Li, Lia, Lili — more recently, Lilia. I have accepted this nomenclature with both hands, because in truth I have always been the bird just as much as I have been the flower on whose thorns it perches; accepting the symbol did not require me to abandon my skin. I try to live up to it, to bring honey into their lives by being a soft thing, an ointment, a nurturing presence, and all the while I worry about the day I might become a poison.

I think that such worries are only natural — they are born of an understanding love. My friends get to see me at my darkest, and when I sink into one such nocturne, it takes me days to come back up for air. Of course I worry about how that will affect them; when you care for someone, a part of their suffering and joys becomes your own.

And thus the distance lessens further: “Lia” is closer to my true self than the persona I present before the court of my peers, as the intimacy which binds me to the people who have given me the name means they have seen all sides of me.

Still, this is at best an incomplete alignment; for you see, the highest level of closeness is, ironically enough, a nameless one.

In the dark, alone with myself, I am an amorphous thing. All there is to me then is a coil of flesh and a handful of fugitive symbols — I dress myself in them as one would in battle armor, becoming what I need to mean to myself in the moment.

Bird-girl. Witchling. Star-peddler. Absolute c-nt.

My own savior just as much as I am my own destroyer, my own God.

Perhaps taking the time to explain all these self-assigned sigils would help bridge the gap in perception — they are tells, after all, much like the tremor of a deer when it senses peril. Perhaps I would be better understood if I just said outright that the reason I think of myself as a bird, for example, is about more than the metaphor of its hollow bones, that it is chiefly about the freedom their kind has yet never takes full advantage of, always flying in the same exact patterns their ancestors have for millennia. Perhaps dialogue is, after all, the solution to this flavor of hedgehog’s dilemma.

And yet. And yet. And yet —

I cannot help but feel that something is lost when I myself am the one to say it. Is it wrong of me to want to be understood without needing to explain? To want to be deciphered, never needing to meet someone halfway as they have of their own accord followed the map to the proverbial door?

 

 

 

Lianna Schreiber is a Romanian author. A self-described “New Romantic”, her work mostly concerns itself with gods, monsters, and human nature as it is caught between the sacred and the profane — all wrapped up in an overabundance of floral imagery. She can be found @ragewrites on tumblr.

“A Queer Hymn Sung by an Atheist” by Jeremy Mifsud

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During my silent days,
your corpse leans
its heavy weight
against the door.

I lie in bed,
on the shards
of a smashed phone,
burning incense,
burning the sheets
and any bed bug
that might have kissed you.

I breathe
the fumes
and hope
to kill
withstanding memories.

I bathe
in starry tears
to rebirth
my soul,
knock at heaven
to claim
a second chance.

& what am I
if not a vulnerable boy
seeking redemption
from a Father
that had abandoned
his son,
kneeling in front of him
like I kneeled in front of you.

I long for his love
like I’ve longed it from you,
but you fed me lies;
I starve on his silence.

You can’t replace divinity.

If I live my life
hoping
a man will save me,
I’m doomed.

If I live my life
believing
in a God,
at least I’ll have
hope.

 

 

 

 

Maltese-born Jeremy Mifsud is an autistic, queer poet, currently reading for a Masters in Cognitive Science at the University of Malta. Social ineptitude becomes a catalyst for his art as he weaves unsaid words into poems and short fiction. He has self-published a full-length collection Welcome to the Sombre Days (2018). More of his poetry and fiction appears or is forthcoming in Please Hear What I’m Not Saying (2018), Lucent Dreaming, Constellate Magazine, Royal Rose Magazine and others.

“THE WAIT” by Michael Akuchie

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i keep a pinch of soul on the nightstand & leave open the windows

of this room plagued with fear of the great unknown

of my heart continually exposed to grief stricken events

a bible nestles close, perfumed pages advertise ageless wisdom

our fleshes meet briefly as stares are visited upon each other

my mouth folds up a prayer & holds on until it is perfectly shaped

to fly across the night & carry my life on for the next stretch of days

because i swallow enough problems to cause incurable bloatedness

because everytime of day is a gift to write on my wrists with knife

because light locks me out & designs self to deny entry

i plump up hands & have them go together to bear God

to carry him right inside the crevices of pain holed up in my body

i wonder if his healing touch knows where to look inside me

this snowballs into scenes of a boy echoing moments saddled with hurt

while commonplace things like prayer requests wear titles of importance

as i navigate through the red & white of  communion for miracles

 

 

Nigerian-based Michael Akuchie is a writer and dreamer whose works have appeared on Barren Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, Agbowo, Kalahari, peculiars mag, IsacousticVol and elsewhere.

 

 

 

“Befrust” by Gabrielle Lawrence

Visitants
tom hill

Image by Tom Hill

befrust

 

 

 

 

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

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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

Visitants
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

Visitants
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.

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

Visitants
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.