Instagram Deleted Her Account @ Over 400K Followers: Fat Phobia in Art and Social Media, and How Carina Shero Continues to Fight for Better Representation of All Bodies

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Photograph by Curvyshooter for MissCurvyMag

Carina Shero is a German born, Chicago based artist active in the body positive movement. She is a plus size model and body positive activist who until April 2018 had an Instagram account @unskinnyhero which had over four-hundred thousand followers. This is the eighth time Instagram has done this. Unfortunately, this appears to be a broader issue at the social media site, where plus size women have been targeted with harassment and then ultimately having their accounts unexpectedly deleted. Shero is one of the founding members of the Chicago plus size only burlesque troupe The Femme FATales, and vows she will continue to fight for the body positive movement, saying the fight for full representation of all bodies is too important to give up. She sat down with TERSE.’s assistant editor Wes Bishop on April 15, 2018 to talk more about her work, her current issues with Instagram, and why the body positive movement is so important.

Wes Bishop: First of all thank you for taking the time to talk with us. To begin could you explain how you first got into modeling, performance art, and the body positive movement?

Carina Shero: So, I began modeling when I was twelve years old and living in Germany. At fourteen I was scouted by a model agent in L.A. and was told that I need to lose weight, which at that time I was still very skinny. My dad said absolutely not. He said, “If you want to sign her you can only do it if you are not going to try and change her.” So I did not go forward with modeling at that point. Then when I moved to America, my cousin who was a photographer at the time used me as a model and test subject, and I began playing with photography and self-portraiture on my own. I just began uploading images myself on sites like MySpace. Very quickly it began to garner a lot of attention. And then it really took off when I began posting to Tumblr about ten years ago. And at that point when I was posting photos I had gained a significant amount of weight and was definitely “plus size.” And those photos were definitely in the range of more “sensual” and “sexy.” Because I wasn’t seeing those kinds of images and representations anywhere else. It was a form of self-expression a way to get to know my body better. And once I began posting on Tumblr, within a month, my photos went viral. To the point that other friends who were on Tumblr were seeing me on their dash, and the images weren’t coming from me. So that showed me there was a demand for a plus size woman showing the world that she could own her body and be unapologetic about it. And it was content that was sensual and sexy, but not sexually explicit, which is what I have been doing this entire time now. Two years ago I went full time with modeling and creating these videos I sell. I really never aspired to be a model. I have a degree in interior architecture and design, and I worked as a nanny for a long time. All the things that go along with modeling don’t really interest me. I don’t know anything about make-up. I actually hate it. I don’t care for fashion like that. I am not interested in getting my hair and nails done. It is all a chore. But I know I have to keep on trucking, because there aren’t a lot of people doing what I am doing. And I want and need to create this representation. I guess I feel a lot of times like Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings when he is riding on his horse back and forth, yelling and motivating the rest of the army to go into battle. I feel like that is me every day online, putting myself out there, doing this thing that people think is so taboo. You know because there is this idea in society that fat people should just hide, not be seen, just disappear and die. So, I fight every day for us to have representation and to show that we can do whatever we want to do. To prove that the opinions of others do not matter.

WB: Going off of that, what do you think are the broader goals and ideas of the body positive movement?

CS: I have to preface this by saying there are many people who claim to be for body positivity, but actually are not. So a lot of times body positivity gets diluted. The core of body positivity is to show that every BODY is perfect. Society is constantly telling us that there is something inherently wrong with ourselves in order to sell us things to feel better about ourselves, to make ourselves feel “more perfect.” The body positive movement in my take really is just a drive to teach people that this is all incorrect. Body positivity is actually getting us to understand we are all already perfect. Obviously this is going to take a lot of time because we have to unlearn what society has taught us. I honestly think if people grew up isolated from society, like on a deserted island, they would not have body issues. We’ve been taught to be concerned with things that just don’t matter. So, it is also an unlearning process. The body positive movement in essence is about freedom. I know for myself that when I got to the point that I realized the opinion of others did not matter it was liberating. I realized that my opinion about my body is the only one that matters. That gave me so much freedom. And, look, I still have work to do. There are parts of my body that I am still working on fully accepting. And I know that is because I have learned to not like certain parts of my body. But it’s an unlearning process, it will take time, but I know I will get there eventually. I think one of the reasons the body positive movement has not gotten the push it needs and is still working to be understood is because it is a threat to large industries, like Cosmopolitan and the teeny magazines, which are based on selling products that try to get people to change themselves to be “better” and “more perfect.”
WB: Could you elaborate on what you mean when you say some claim to be “body positive,” but actually aren’t working in the body positive movement?
CS: For instance take Ashley Graham. You’ll see multiple magazines saying “Ashley Graham is a Body Positive Icon” when she really is not a beacon for the body positive community. She gave an interview once where she said, “Oh, there are some mornings when I feel fat.” Well, news flash, we actually are fat. Every single day. This is nothing we can escape. This is just who we are. So the way people like Graham and others frame bodies is through a negative frame. And she has gained her notoriety off of the backs of actual fat people who for years and years have been putting themselves out there for body positivity and a huge part of her fan base are people who are actually fat. Her being a person who is an “inbetweenie” size, who therefore has a privilege of being on all these magazine covers because she is “acceptable,” and then shitting all over her fan base is the antithesis of what the body positive movement should be about. For example, Graham is currently on a TV show called Revenge Body which is a program that in essence tells you there is something inherently wrong with certain types of bodies that you then have to move away from to get a “better body.” There is nothing wrong with anyone’s body. Ever. You know?
WB: Yes. Well said.
CS: So that goes against the entire idea of body positivity. And so, I could name many other people who have done similar things where they have said “Oh, body positive!” but in actuality, no. If we really want to dissect this false presentation, it is not only NOT body positivity, but is harming the whole message of body positivity. And then there are a lot of people who are in the fat community who claim to be body positive and then say things like, “Fat girls do it better than skinny girls!” And again, that is wrong. At that point we are shaming an entire type of body for what it is when body positivity is not just for fat people. It is not just for a specific type of body. It is for everybody. It means we are all inherently perfect. And there is also a whole range of people who claim to be body positive who work in the realm of “fitness” and what they perceive as “health.” They think body positivity should only be for “healthy bodies,” so your body is only good if it is “healthy.” I find this very ableist. There are a lot of people who don’t have that privilege of being “healthy.” Because, again, there is nothing wrong with you if your body is not classified as perfectly healthy.
WB: That makes a lot of sense. I agree. Could you talk a little bit about your performance group The Femme FATales? How it got started, what are its goals, and who is in the troupe?

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The Femme FATales Burlesque Troupe in February 2018– Photograph by Eve Studnicka

CS: The idea came in early 2014. I had gone to some burlesque shows in Chicago and I noticed that there was always almost only skinny performers with once in a while plus size performers sprinkled in there. What I noticed is that you could always see the audience’s reaction would shift when a plus size performer would come on stage. It would always be this feeling of “Oh, is this person going to take off their clothes? Oh… okay.” And then there would be this kind of forced applause. And I just thought it was so disheartening because everybody should be championed the same way based on their talents, and not on the size of their body. Especially in burlesque which is a platform that people have used to claim self-expression and empowerment, which to me is part of the broader goal of body positivity. So I was even asked to join a troupe. It was a troupe that had just one other inbetweenie performer, and I had to really think about whether I wanted to put myself in that kind of position where I would have been this afterthought. It would have been this position where my existence was only humored, but not really championed. I wanted to challenge that. I had a lot of professional dance training from when I was in Germany, but nothing specifically in burlesque. So I ended up becoming really good friends with Iridessence (note: Iridessence is a Chicago artist, model, and performer also part of the body positive movement), we met through Tumblr, and I told her this idea of wanting to create a plus size burlesque. But I had no idea how to go about doing that. So it was something we played with, we would talk about it here and there, and then she took me to this ice cream social at Vaudezilla which is one of the main troupes in Chicago. Vaudezilla was created by and is owned by Red Hot Annie who is an international burlesque performer and a star. It was at that meeting that I got to speak to her and pitch the idea, and she said, “You know what? This is really needed. I will support you all in any way.” She then provided us space, and reviews, and told us that we had to follow through with the idea. And that was really the fuel that we needed. Two months later we had our first big troupe meeting. We had a lot of people who joined through Tumblr and word of mouth. We ended up with thirteen people in our living room, that were all plus size, and of varying genders. We have some who are gender non-conforming, non-binary… just no cis-white men [laughs.]
WB: [laughing] Good idea.

 

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The Femme FATales Burlesque Troupe in February 2018– Photograph by Eve Studnicka

CS: So after a couple of months we put on our very first show. It was sold out. We got a standing ovation. And we have not looked back since. I really consider our troupe members a family. Actually as I am giving this interview, we have rehearsals going on in my living room. We are getting ready for a late summer show, and this is really our lives now. In terms of the troupe, we strive for diversity in terms of race, body size, age, gender— we are always working on finding more representation and diversity. We do this because the main goal of our shows is for the viewer to experience seeing themselves. They don’t necessarily need to see themselves on stage performing, but what we want to convey to the viewer is that they can be as free and as in love with themselves as we are. Because when we are on that stage we are just so free, and just having so much fun, and are so in tune with our bodies. That is just not something you get to see, and burlesque for me is just a vehicle of offering an opportunity for people to see body positivity in motion. It is right in front of them. We have had offers of being on TV and whatnot, but so far we have been turning those down. So for example we were offered to be on America’s Got Talent but we have veered away from those things for the time being because many times our bodies are sensationalized. So for myself I have done a couple of TV appearances and one of those was in Germany, and it was supposed to be a segment on body positivity/body image. But then they actually took the majority of what I said about body positivity out of the final segment and focused instead on how I make money online. Then they sold all the segments they filmed with me to another show without my permission, and so now I am on a show called Ten Freakiest Bodies. It has aired multiple times in Germany and Austria, and just two nights ago it was on TV again, which is partially why I think I got deleted from Instagram because so many people who saw that show reported my account. I have not wanted to put my troupe in the same position.
WB: I’m really sorry to hear about the German show, Carina. That is really horrible.

CS: Oh, pssh. It has happened so many times now that I just… yeah.
WB: Well, I’m glad you have that attitude and are moving forward with your work, and are using the experience to help protect the others in your troupe, but still what the show did is disgusting. It’s the worst kind of exhibitionism. It’s like the shit someone like P.T. Barnum would have done. It’s very exploitative, very disrespectful, and purposefully misrepresents what you said and what you stand for.
CS: Yes.
WB: Well, that moves us to what happened with Instagram. So what was the issue with Instagram, what happened, and why do you think the site decided to delete your account?
CS: This is the seventh or eighth time Instagram has deleted me. The first was when I was at thirty-thousand, then it was when I hit sixty-thousand, then it was when my account hit one hundred and thirty-thousand. So this is the largest amount of followers I’ve ever had and this account was up the longest (note: the most recent account was @unskinnyhero). I had really hoped we had moved past this issue of fat phobia on Instagram, but apparently the company is at the moment deleting pretty much every plus size Instagram model that is working in lingerie or just generally in the realm of sexy or seductive. Which for me is devastating. I have been working at this for ten years, and for the past two years have been working to make content for my Patreon and for Instagram. This is my job. So without my account I am currently jobless. I still have my Patreon and my other platforms, but Instagram has been my main hub to show my work, to get sponsors, and to guide people to my other sites. I’ve also spent the most time curating my presence on Instagram and so without that profile to lead people to places like my Patreon I just don’t have a job. And it has been horrible because I have sponsors who have been contacting me wondering why I haven’t been posting the products they have sent me. Also, I am appearing in a movie in two weeks and I am supposed to be posting the trailers, and the producers just called me yesterday and were like, “Uh… hey we are really worried. What’s going on with your account? Are you going to be able to get it back?” Because they are banking on me as one of the main personalities in the film, and I am supposed to be advertising and leading people to the film. So there are a lot of aspects that are just really scary to me this time around losing my account. Every other time I have lost my account I have had some other job to fall back on, but now this is all I got. So it is really frustrating… especially since after all of these years I have stuck strong to my belief that I can get my message across without revealing all of my body. I have always wanted to be a representative of this middle ground where I show that fat women can be attractive, sensual, and sexy without having to show everything and fall into a fetish category. And that is something I’ve done even on my Patreon. I don’t show my nipples. I don’t show my vagina. Everything I post would be within the community guidelines of places like YouTube, and are in the realm of Instagram’s supposed rules. However, in terms of body size, I am one of the largest bodied models, and the larger you are the more your body is sexualized when you appear in shoots with lingerie. And I get that people are not used to seeing this, seeing these kind of bodies in this kind of light. But that is why I keep doing what I am doing, so people do get used to seeing my type of body. And seeing a body that has cellulite. And seeing a body that has stretch marks. And seeing a body that has extra rolls. My body is much larger than anything you are going to see on any type of billboard, on any kind of music video, and any kind of movie. Think about it. How many movies do you know where there is a main character that is my size and the movie is not about their weight? Not one of those films that a skinny girl wakes up in a fat girl’s body, and the movie is about her freaking out. Or that is not about the person being comedic relief. There is no movie where there is someone my size and it is not specifically about their size. It’s just not a thing.
WB: You are absolutely right. The only movies that come readily to mind are films like Shallow Hal or What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. And you are absolutely right because in both cases the people being depicted are either tragic or sensationalized comedy.
CS: I remember watching Empire for the first time and seeing Gabourey Sidibe in a bomb ass outfit looking so fine, and seeing how they had given her the best wardrobe, and seeing that they would represent this fat woman of color in the best way possible… the first time I ever saw something like that on TV I was just like, “Hell. Fucking. Yes.” And that is why I have to keep doing this because I want to try and give others the same experience. I see how in any comment section there are people just ripping Sidibe apart… just for existing. We have to keep going so there isn’t just one person. Hopefully my job eventually becomes obsolete. I can’t wait to just retire, maybe have a modeling agency, or produce a burlesque show from behind the scenes. I am ready for there to be so many fat women in entertainment and modeling that we won’t even be able to think of all their names.
WB: Moving forward what can you and readers do about what Instagram has done?
CS: There are a couple of things that are being done. I filed an appeal with Instagram. But I am not really sure if that is going to work. I’ve had people make false accounts using my likeness and material before, and Instagram really did nothing about it. One case was particularly horrible because this guy set up an account and was using it to solicit nude photos from underage girls, so he was trafficking in child pornography, and he was using my likeness to do it. It was up for five months. Instagram didn’t really care, didn’t do much about it. Instagram never apologized to me, they never really even emailed me about the situation. They just finally gave me access to the account, and I had to spend all this time writing to people explaining the situation, shutting down the site, etc. It was several weeks of work. And it’s not like you can just call Instagram and ask to speak to a manager. I hope the appeal will work. We will have to see. I have hired a PR person, which costs five hundred dollars, but has no guarantee that it will actually work. They’ve told me that even if it doesn’t work then at least we can use part of that money to help boost my new account. But that isn’t the issue. I’ve restarted accounts before. I can do it again. But I need the stability of the account, and all of those conversations, all of the community I have worked to be a part of on the site is now gone. A few people have suggested putting a petition together with the hope that will attract Instagram’s attention. I am playing with that idea right now, because I am at my wit’s end. I feel like I am yelling into the abyss saying “Please give me my lifeline back!” and all the while I have no idea if anybody is hearing me over at Instagram and if they are hearing me if they even care. Because they didn’t even care when this guy was using my images to get child porn. If they didn’t even care about that I kind of doubt that they are care about me losing my job. The sad irony is that when I look up my name there are four fake accounts with my name, they have all been reported, but none of them have been taken down. Meanwhile, I am just like, “OH MY GOD,” you won’t take down an impersonation account but you will delete me? Okay.
WB: That’s bull shit. Well. I am rooting for you, as are many people. There are many people who appreciate the way you fuse politics into your art. I don’t know if this is any consolation, but your message is getting out to people.
CS: Thank you. That’s what keeps me going. I appreciate hearing that people are getting the message. Even if just a few people hear it that is all that matters.
To follow Carina Shero at her new account on Instagram please go to @carina_shero and follow her. Also, the Femme FATales can be followed @thefemmefatalesburlesque. Please sign Carina’s petition to help artists like her continue breaking ground in the body positivity movement. 

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The Chemistry of Mayson W. Burnham and His Surrounding Universe by Cavin Bryce

Mayson
Image in frame by Nikolaja Lutohina

 

 

Ninety-nine percent of Mayson W. Burnham is composed of these following elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Roughly zero point eighty five percent of the Mayson W. Burnham is composed of potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. As with all matter, an incredibly minute amount of  Mayson W. Burnham is composed of absolutely nothing- we’ll estimate here that 0.0001% of Mayson doesn’t even exist on an atomic level, that 0.0001% of him is utterly void of measurable building block materials.  Mayson W. Burnham is probably a physicist. Or a carpenter. Or a delivery man. Unless he is already dead, in which case he would simply be deceased.

Oxygen: a chemical element recognized simply as “O” on the periodic table of elements. It has an atomic mass of 15.999u. It is highly reactive element, part of the chalcogen group, and, following Helium and Hydrogen, is the third most abundant element in the known universe. As a gas, it is invisible. As a liquid, a light blue. Oxygen composes roughly sixty five percent of Mayson W. Burnham. It is used for cellular respiration- to oxidize his blood and keep his organic machinery pumping. If one were to dissect Mayson W. Burnham, on a microscopic level, they would find oxygen located in his proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and fats.

When Mayson W. Burnham steps outside he first encounters oxygen when he takes a breath of air, as it makes up twenty one percent of his atmosphere here on planet Earth. Plants of all types, when they aren’t being feasted upon by herbivores and omnivores alike, have it in their kind hearts to thrust oxygen into the surrounding atmosphere so that their very natural predators can continue to subsist, to consume. Inside of any house, you will find a residential heater that metabolizes oxygen so as to warm the tenants exposed toes. When  Mayson W. Burnham gets too old for his brittle little lungs to effectively recycle oxygen for life fuel he will adorn a plastic mask fitted to a green cylinder full of concentrated oxygen. Heaven forgive  Mayson W. Burnham if he ever strike a match in this condition for this same gas that supports life also propels great rockets into space– and it would do a fine job of blowing our character to bits.

In the Tupperware housing leftovers, embedded in our water supply, and floating passively, unnoticed and unacknowledged in our atmosphere, one can find the element that composes most of their body. That is surely no evolutionary coincidence.

Carbon: recognized as “C” on our periodic table, this element is the second most abundant in Mayson W. Burnham. It composes eighteen percent of his body and is, not surprisingly, the fourth most abundant element in the universe. When oxidized, that is to say stimulated by oxygen, carbon will produce carbon-dioxide. This gas is potentially fatal to organic life. It is at least objectively interesting that the two most prevalent elements within the body of  Mayson W. Burnham, when combined in unfortunate fashion, would yield him a certain death.

When Mayson W. Burnham was youthful he sketched flowers and vases full of fish using graphite, which exists when the atoms within carbon are jostled about in just the right manner. It is socially expected of  Mayson W. Burnham to one day buy a great rock of composed of carbon, which we humans have named a diamond, and that he should one day present this rock to a woman he is very romantically fond of so as to concrete their relationship and instigate the act of propagation, a fancy term coined to describe continuing his species by means of sexual reproduction.  Mayson W. Burnham remains impartial to this cultural phenomenon. It should also be noted that outside of this ritual diamonds exist as the hardest naturally occurring material. One could conclude that it is a squandered resource outside of our innate requirement of it to survive.

Hydrogen: is an element that is highly combustible and reactive, recognized on the periodic table as “H.” Hydrogen is labelled atomic number “1” and, in its monatomic form, is the single most abundant element in the known universe; making up ninety percent of every atom. It is invisible, odorless, and all encompassing.

When Mayson W. Burnham is slurp, slurp, slurping down a big glass of water he is consuming a substance of two thirds hydrogen atoms and one third oxygen. This substance will fuel his body. It will allow him to think and breathe, to, effectively, act as a functioning human being. When he is tearing into a ribeye or enjoying the passive notes of a coq au vin, though Mayson is far too simple to ever be exposed to such a luxury, he will break down the organic material in order to strip away the valuable resources within it. Of course this includes hydrogen, which will be transported to the mitochondria of his cells in order to create energy for cell function, thus higher function of the body. It will allow Mayson W. Burnham to recall, run, or ruminate.

It is unfortunate, when observed through the scope of modern history, that humans- with their great big brains- have been able to utilize the destructive and volatile properties of hydrogen. The most evident example of this occurred in 1945, thirty one years before the birth of  Mayson W. Burnham, when the United States of America dropped two metal balls onto the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the final stage of World War II. Inside these metal balls were radioactive elements, such as uranium and plutonium, that facilitated nuclear fission by slamming hydrogen atoms with particles called neutrons. Plutonium is an element that was invented by humans for the sake of explosions. Uranium was invented by the universe but it only explodes when the humans tell it to. These metal balls were weapons known as nuclear bombs. In Hiroshima, twenty thousand soldiers, and between seventy and one-hundred-sixty thousand civilians were obliterated. Nagasaki totaled between forty and eighty thousand deaths. Most were instantaneous but others were more prolonged, a result of exposure to the lingering nuclear radiation.

In 1937, some odd years before the birth of  Mayson W. Burnham, hydrogen was used in an attempt to revolutionize air travel. The LZ 129 Hindenburg was forced to use the highly combustible gas due to helium being a scarce, expensive, commodity at the time. At 7:25 (local time) the Hindenburg was sighted to have caught fire. It was immediately engulfed in flames and crashed. Thirty six people burned to death or were killed upon impact.

Nitrogen: is an element recognized by the symbol “N” and carries the title of atomic number seven. Nitrogens electron configuration looks like this– [He] 2s2 2p2 — and  Mayson W. Burnham might argue that it is neither aesthetically pleasing nor entirely disagreeable if he ever cared to think about it. It is a diatomic nonmetal named after the Greek word “πνίγειν” which means, literally, “to choke.” It should be noted that along with every other element at our disposal we human beings have harnessed nitrogen for the use of killing. This act is referred to as inert gas asphyxiation, which is a very politically correct term meaning murdered by gas.

Despite its innate ability to kill, nitrogen is also a very important part of human reproduction, and the reproduction of any creature that converses with its future generations through the language DNA. Mayson W. Burnham shares, or shared, between 99.0% and 99.9% of the same DNA as every other human on the planet. DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. Deoxyribonucleic acid is the main constituent of chromosomes. Chromosomes carry our genetic information, they tell us who we are, and who we are not. Without nitrogenous bases, DNA would fail to hold shape and the conversation between parents and unborn descendants might look like this:

Parent: you will look like this!

Descendant: Like what?

Parent: and behave this way!

Descendant: like how?

Parent: and you will live!

Descendant: but I won’t!

This element, component, constituent- what have you- is the seventh most abundant in our very own Milky Way system. It is also incredibly abundant in our atmosphere where it is actively unified into N2; a unit composed of, as you might have guessed, two nitrogen atoms. N2 makes up seventy eight percent of the gaseous mixture surrounding our civilizations, which is pretty ironic considering its asphyxiating nature.

There is a complex order through which nitrogen is recycled and used here on our little planet. I will condense this process for you now, in the form of a darling little tale:

A rabbit nibbles on a piece of grass, as they will often do, and actively digests the organic material. In this circumstance our bunny here is considered a consumer. When the rabbit defecates, as they will often do, small traces of nitrogen will enter the soil through decomposition; which we will soon examine more thoroughly. After eating up grass for several years and making adorable rabbit babies, as they will often do, our fluffy buddy will, unfortunately, snuff it. As soon as those adorable eyes sparkle no longer, and the pinkest of pink noses ceases to twitch, microorganisms will begin feasting on its corpse. Horrific image, noted, but entirely natural and vital to our ecosystem. Those microorganisms, along with maggots and larvae, will munch on the fur and flesh of our dear friend, inevitably producing ammonia. The ammonia will then undergo nitrification in the soil and be absorbed into surrounding plant matter to be consumed by the young of our late bunny– who was arguably taken too soon, as most adorable creatures are.

Needless to say, Mayson W. Burnham will also undergo decomposition, and certainly may have already. He will eventually, if he has not already, bite the big one. He will then be digested by microscopic monsters and maggots alike. Just the same as our rabbit acquaintance. And so will your dearest friends, and your parents. And so will the mail folk and doctors and brothers and wives of the world. Every person. Every animal. This is our fate as organic beings apart of a natural system.

Calcium: an alkaline earth metal labelled “Ca” on our periodic table and referred to as atomic number twenty. It is a pale yellow metal until it is oxidized, in which it takes on a dull silver appearance. It is the fifth most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust and it’s atomic weight looks like this: 40.08 g.mol -1

If you are anything like Mayson W. Burnham then you probably think of milk when you hear the word “calcium”. And it is true that humans, the honest mammalians that we are, produce milk with calcium within it. The post prominent form of calcium is found embedded in limestone and in the fossilized remains of ancient sea creatures.

Outside of the consumption of dairy products, Mayson W. Burnham makes use of calcium when he starts his car, for its 0.1% calcium–lead alloys in the battery allows for decreased water loss. He has also made use of it in the form of Drain-O, which is often used to disintegrate the piling up of hair and skin particles left in his sink. Even though he cannot produce calcium,  Mayson W. Burnham has a great mass of it stored in his skeleton. He has absorbed it through years of ingesting precious animal products.

Finally, what is left of Mayson W. Burnham is composed mostly of trace elements. This includes the aforementioned potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. This also includes iron, iodine, fluoride, copper, zinc,chromium, selenium, manganese and molybdenum. Without these wonderfully minute specks within him, Mayson W. Burnham would cease to function.

Of course there is an unregistered, unaccounted for, volume of space that resides between all material constructs. I hypothesize that it is this lingering lack of mass, the 0.0001% of empty space, that accounts for Mayson W. Burnham’s drive to pursue new experiences. It is an unconscious drive to fill the unfillable void. When he is stuffing his eyes and gullet up with organic and intangible stimuli, it is likely an attempt to satisfy that empty microcosm. And, unfortunately, it is this same lack of initial ingredients in that microscopic space between his flesh that probably instigates the bitter feeling of being incomplete. It is as though his mind is able to recognize that between the cells churning away, between neurons and electrons, bosons and quarks–existing beside the teeniest, tiniest, of particles–there is a definite space that yields nothing, yes, absolutely, positively, nothing. . . and that infuriates him.

So,  Mayson W. Burnham will go on being a perfectly capable animal if he still lives. He will consume calcium and breathe oxygen. He will eat and read and paint and participate in sexual encounters despite his unwillingness to procreate. He will wonder if these things have yet to fill that lingering, empty microcosm. And they won’t, because they can’t, because chemistry is more complicated than smiles and movies and grilled meat and colors.

 

mayson2
Image in frame by Rick White

 

Cavin Bryce is a twenty-one year old student of English attending the University of Central Florida. He spends his time off sitting on the back porch, sipping sweet tea and watching his hound dog dig holes across a dilapidated yard. His work has been recently published in Hobart, CHEAP POP, OCCULUM, and elsewhere. He tweets at @cavinbryce.

Poetry Demon by Kristin Garth

Listen in on a reading by poet Kristin Garth by visiting the video above. 

 

Poetry Demon

A poetry demon won’t clean a house.
It burrows in clutter, writing it out.
Language is legion. Words only espoused.
Diabolism requires fingers devout.

A poetry demon does not have friends.
It listens to troubles, locating a pen.
Seeks clarification. Won’t condescend.
Emotions, details its ghoulish godsend.

A poetry demon might get you read.
Knows how to write its way into a head.
It charts your cerebrum once it embeds.
Conquers mass consciousness without bloodshed.

When life’s chaos, but words are refined,
a poetry demon’s devoured your mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kristin Garth is a poet from Pensacola and a sonnet stalker. Her sonnets have stalked the pages of Occulum, Luna Luna, Moonchild Magazine, Mookychick, Anti-Heroin Chic, Drunk Monkeys and many other publications. Her chapbook Pink Plastic House is available through maverickduckpress.com. Follow her sonnets and socks on Twitter: @lolaandjolie.

 

 

Self-care Soup: Mars Roundhouse Kicks in the Door to the Tune of 90’s House Music

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Image: Peter Nevins ~ Detail of “A MONSTER IS BORN!” ~ Woodcut

Self-care Soup is a short column where Moriah Mylod and M. Perle talk about vibes in the ether and self-care strategies.

 

M. Perle: Aries season is a time when we think about our power. What it’s like, how we use it, where can it get us. We can misuse power, but let’s think about how we can…not do that. In my book rec of the month I cite an instant DIY classic: Sandhya Rani Jha’s Transforming Communities: How People Like You are Healing Their Neighborhoods. Power can mean saying, “I’m gonna just do it myself!” Mercury is in retrograde until the 15th (tomorrow!) which signals a time to reflect. After that, as SNAP! said in their seminal hit “I’ve Got the Power,” “Dinging like a cymbal, rhyme devil on the heavenly level/ Bang the bass, turn up the treble”! What if we do have the power?

Mercury Retrograde has made me revisit the role friends have had on my life path. I found myself on Instagram thinking about people who have passed through my life and felt an extreme tenderness. So I followed them. Reconsidering these formative times reveals how much others shape our lives. How many have passed through your life, shown you things about yourself, make you miss home, lead you to the home in yourself? Admit there are people around us who move us to feel, to act. Watch how you speak about others. Are you treating them harshly because of your own feelings of unworthiness?

 

Moriah M. MylodIn honor of the season of change from Old Man Winter leading us slowly into the welcoming embrace of Maiden’s Spring, we can gently invite ourselves to celebrate these shifting seasonal changes within us! As the first Crocus of buds gently greeting us and Spring Showers pouring on us, we may find ourselves to be in place of acceptance, resistance or perhaps both. Change is inevitable- it’s not necessarily a good or bad thang…it just IS, right?! It’s about how we can muster up or discover the strength through these discomforts perhaps difficulties that change has brought to our door steps. It seems easy for some of us to recognize our weaknesses before our strengths when confronted with an opportunity for transformation and that’s OK…at least we recognize! So, in the light of Aries’ Power, let’s take a look at our personal strengths and hey our weaknesses too, but most of all give recognition to the heart of who we are in our strength of strengths which is our Archetypal Hero/Warrior in our life on a day to day basis. As a matter of fact, Carl G. Jung has proclaimed to us that “only one who has risked the fight with dragon and is not overcome by it wins the hoard—“the treasure hard to attain!”” (Collected Works of C.G. Jung 14 by Gerhard Alder, par. 746)  

 

Destruction_of_Leviathan
Detail of an engraving titled “The Destruction of Leviathan” by Gustav Doré (circa 1865)

 

Recommended Reading

 

M. Perle: Sandhya Rani Jha, Transforming Communities: How People Like You Are Healing Their Neighborhoods

Moriah M. Mylod: Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, Chapter on Joy & Sorrow

 

Music to Get You Through

M. Perle: 2 Unlimited “No Limit”

YouTubeNoLimit

 

Moriah M. Mylod: “Another Night” by Real McCoy (European Version Video Clip, 1993)

 

Meditation

M. Perle: Listen to 2 Unlimited. Close your eyes and think of jabbing and grabbing all the non-human obstacles standing in your way. Now sing Sonique “It Feels So Good” to yourself and wrap your arms around yourself (hug yourself!). It’s a short meditation because: it’s Aries season! You know we don’t have time for patiently mediating!

 

ART for Mind, Body & Spirit

Moriah M. Mylod: Invitation to go outdoors to create an Earth Mandala with a special intention. Mandala mean ‘Sacred Circle’ in Sanskrit’—it is indeed circular shape in form usually created from the center of the circle outward or vise versa.  What will your reason be for creating today? What is it for? What do you need in your life right now? Think of something specific and begin picking natural objects that appear available and interesting to you (ex. flowers, leaves, sticks, stones, etcetera) thinking of line, shape, texture, and color, in mind. Once you’ve collected enough things, search the area for suiting place to set them down. Is it a dirt or rocky ground? GOOD! Feel free to crouch down to the ground or in a position that’s comfortable for you and begin placing those beauties down. Think of some patterns of how you wish to arrange them. It takes a lot of work constructing these, lots of thanks and gratitude to the trees for allowing us to pluck their leaves off or flower’s petals if we want to utilize them. Perhaps you quietly thank the Universe for your hands, your mind, your health, your happiness, your sadness, your pain and your experiences– to be able to make something beautiful out of something that wasn’t there before. Did you know you can do that? Make something beautiful out of “nothing”? How do you look at things?

 

mandala

A Short Interview with Elizabeth Ruth Deyro, Founder of The Brown Orient

The Brown Orient

Enjoy a short interview with our beloved affiliate The Brown Orient‘s founder Elizabeth Ruth Deyro and spread the word about this fabulous publication. 

terseeditor: When did you become interested in writing publicly?

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: My professor in Creative Writing class, which I took in 2014, was the first to introduce me to publishing with independent literary journals. As he himself was fond of submitting poetry and known for having an admirable number of publications under his belt, he also encouraged our class to do the same. Often, he’d require us to submit to calls for submissions, and give incentives to those whose work get accepted for publication. It was in this semester that I got my very first publication – a poem written in Filipino that was published by {m}aganda Magazine as part of their 28th issue. Since then, I grew more interested in submitting more to other journals, and I did a couple of times, but the succeeding semesters as a writing major were pretty tough and I almost gave up on creative writing. I did not submit to literary journals again until late last year, when I finally got over the anxiety that those terrible semesters brought about. Now, I have a respectable number of publications, but there is always room for improvement, in terms of both quality and quantity.

terseeditor: Who are your major influences for writing?

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: Contemporary writers such as Rainbow Rowell, Jennifer E. Smith, Madeleine Roux, and Tahereh Mafi helped me greatly in finding my voice in writing. Chuck Palahniuk’s style has always intrigued me, and I aspire to adapt his tone in my writing as well. Neil Gaiman is also someone that I really look up to.

terseeditor: At what point did you come up with the idea for The Brown Orient? Was there a certain event that was the catalyst?

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: Yes. I have long noticed how people seldom acknowledge the fact that “Brown Asians” are underrepresented in the global narrative – especially in Western mainstream media, which has massive influence over so many cultures and individuals from all over the globe. All they seem to know and mind about Asia is East Asian culture, and that says a lot about the deficit in proper representation for other regions of Asia. But what triggered me the most was this one conversation I had with my sister, when she just could not believe that we Filipinos are actually Asian. The side of the Internet that she has grown to become fond of apparently only ever acknowledge East Asians as the “legitimate Asians”, which is ridiculous considering that there is a lot more to Asia than that one region. This is why I created The Brown Orient, which is a project made to show the world that the “Orient” that they have always associated with just one region is in fact multi-sided – and these other sides have always been Brown.

terseeditor: You do a lot! Can you tell readers all the cool projects you’re working on at the moment?

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: Oh, I am so blessed and grateful that I get to be part of a handful of projects. Firstly, I am the Fiction Editor of Rag Queen Periodical and we will be releasing our first issue soon, which I’m truly excited about. I also got selected recently as the new editor of /tap/ lit mag, and we’re currently reading submissions for our forthcoming issue. Aside from these two, I also have other engagements with other journals, both for editing and writing, which I think is really amazing.

I am also currently directing a theatre production called “Miss Dulce Extranjera” as final requisite for my undergraduate degree.

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: In between these commitments, I sometimes do advocacy work, with particular focus on mental health by participating in projects spearheaded by local youth organizations. I act as Sponsorship and Partnership Head of Silakbo PH, a collective that primarily promotes art as means of coping with mental illnesses. I am also a member of the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, Inc.

terseeditor: What are some of your ideas for the future?

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro: This mid-year, I will start to work on my first chapbook, which will be a flash fiction chap about different narratives that reveal the parallels of one’s struggle with mental illness and the societal issues presently dealt with by Filipinos. This is definitely the first priority.

After graduation, I hope to get a day job as editorial assistant for a local publishing house or magazine, which is my goal ever since I started to pursue writing and editing. I also plan to study again for a Master’s degree in Journalism.

Of course, I have so much plans for The Brown Orient: a huge collaborative project with our sister publications including TERSE., possibly (hopefully!) going print, and finally being able to provide monetary compensation for our contributors and staff members.

 

 

Check out the fresh style and sharp mission of The Brown Orient

“if there were water” and “Frameshift Mutations” by Shastra Deo

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Image: Sleep Sparrow “Bloom”

if there were water

in lieu of hyacinth garden my
kingdom is a heaven of spilled lilies
-of-the-valley, dead lands empty
is the sea : silent but for breath of

my beloved(forbidden
sight and sun
break)hoards prophecy

of the world and its remaking : years

he has since grown
deciduous—sloughs lashes like fall
teeth, whites
of his eyes sap-speckled with singe : my

shadow no shelter though his
roots still clutch my stone-dry
tongue: in the rivermouth

where they left the king(my

father)the
fish shiver apart, jaws stretched
out of being : omen and
ossuary : all

through the reeds things
no longer
living sink to earth-rot

and wait for spring

 

 

Images by: Ines Longevial

Frameshift Mutations

she did not ask you for jaw and lip
you foe yet kin for era
but you awe the men who ate her
raw roe gut doe eye wet
god his maw and pax was bad for her
nix the rib but you are not her ilk

she can not ask him for jaw and lip
her foe yet kin for era
but hea wes the men who ate her
raw rob gut elk eye dry
god His paw was pox was bad for her
saw the leg but hei sno the ril k

hec ann ota skh imf orj awa ndl ip
zhe rfo eye tki nfo rer a
uth eaw est hem enw hoa teh er
xra wro bgu tel key edr y
god _is was pox was for her
awt hel egb uth eis not her ilk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shastra Deo was born in Fiji, raised in Melbourne, and lives in Brisbane, Australia. Her first book, The Agonist, won the 2016 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and was published by University of Queensland Press in 2017. Shastra’s work deals with the intersection of trauma, memory, and self-hood, with a particular focus on corporeality and embodiment. She likes brook trout, Final Fantasy XV, and tea. Learn more at  www.shastradeo.com and on Twitter @shastradeo.

For Someone Who Doesn’t Have to Believe in Monsters by Chloe N. Clark

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I play my cards so close to my chest
they might as well be tattoos
when people ask me for my past
I tell them the things that chase away
the truth, the secret to not lying
is to never get close to needing to
I say I’m scared of horses
and silverfish and leopard seals
I distract with the things they’ll find
funny or if they ask what I want to do
with my life and I change the subject
say some random fact from history:
that Edgar Allan Poe may have died
from rabies, that there were ships
in WWI called “razzle dazzles,” that onions
make you cry because sulfenic
acids are unstable and can rearrange into
gases, that each of a person’s eyes has a blindspot
that is never noticed because the eyes work together
to correct the gap
but here’s the thing, if you were the one who asked me
for some truth
I’d tell you my life, unravel it between us
so that you could see it from above, every
secret I’d give you, until you held them all
in your hands
I think you might tell me
where the gaps are

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chloe N. Clark‘s poems and fiction appear in Booth, Glass, Hobart, Little Fiction, Uncanny, and more. She is co-EIC of Cotton Xenomorph, writes for Nerds of a Feather, and teaches at Iowa State University. Her debut chapbook, The Science of Unvanishing Objects, is out from Finishing Line Press and she can be found on Twitter @PintsNCupcakes

 

 

 

Meaning-making in Literature and Life: an Introduction to Existentialism by Elizabeth Ruth Deyro

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Image by Ashley Goldberg

In literature, it is the reader who gives meaning to a text.

The process of creating this meaning is in the dialogue between the reader and the text itself. Giving it meaning is their way of understanding it. We should recognize that the text, once birthed, becomes a separate entity apart from its writer, much like a newborn from their mother. The writer’s significance should remain unquestioned, as it is they who has created the text, but they do not hold the power to set a standard meaning for their work. The text speaks for itself; it is no longer the writer’s words, but rather of its own. Should the writer attempt to put meaning on the text, they become a reader. We can assume that the text would encounter several readers, and consequently, have dialogues with several minds; therefore, a plurality of meanings would be created. Some of these meanings may be deemed as the common interpretation of the text, but none could claim to be the right meaning. In fact, there is no right meaning, as it would always be a variation of interpretations created by different people with different experiences.

What we can say, however, is that, without these interpretations and the readers that created them, the text is meaningless. It is but a compilation of words that follow the basic rules of grammar, but it has no essence. Nevertheless, a reader can give meaning to a text without fully acknowledging that the text is meaningless without them.

This is almost similar to finding the meaning of life in spite of its apparent meaninglessness.

The famous poet Francois Rabelais mentioned, in his last words, a “great perhaps” he shall go seek. In my opinion, most of us, if not all, go to seek a great perhaps, for our own set of reasons. This is why we find or create our own meanings of life. Humans seek for meaning because we want so badly to make sense of all things around us.

This desire to understand even encompasses things that are beyond our intellectual capacities. We obsess over reason, which result to numerous theories that remain hypothetical because, in actuality, there are things that we cannot provide definite answers to. Immanuel Kant’s concept of mind-independent external world, which he defines to comprise things that we cannot know, must be deemed relevant. Kant claimed that humans “cannot make a cognition of things in themselves, but only as they appear to us.” Rene Descartes agreed by saying that “the mind-independent external world is mediated only through the ideas of it” and thus, we can only ever know it indirectly. John Locke further suggested that human beings only understand things as how we perceive them to be, and never as they are. Therefore, we can only hypothesize about things that fall under the mind-independent external world, but we can never be able to pin an exact definition to such. An example of which is the origin of everything. How the world came to be has been a lingering question in the fields of science, philosophy, and religion. We understand that, no matter how many theories we propose, we can never truly verify whether or not it is right, and yet, the curiosity among us remains, though we are aware that knowing more about it would not be beneficial in our personal lives. This obsession with finding explanation is less of an effect of innate curiosity than a product of fear to fully embrace the reality that everything is in fact meaningless. This fear may be something we experience either consciously or unconsciously. We fill the void of meaninglessness by interpreting life as such in relation to our existence.

Using the lens of existentialism, we can view life as having no inherent meaning, just as human beings have no inherent purpose. It is us that give life essence; further, it is us that set our purpose as beings. How we create this meaning depends on the dialogue between us and life itself, in the form of our experiences. Jean-Paul Sartre abridged this thought when he coined the statement “existence precedes essence”, the central idea of existentialism. The statement suggests that the mere existence of an individual is more fundamental than his essence, and that his essence is dependent on his existence. Man is not born with a purpose nor value; it is something he creates for himself, whether or not he is aware of the process.

Richard Taylor’s interpretation of Albert Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus gave two ways in approaching the problem of discontent in life: The first one is finding meaning “from the outside,” or in the significance of the product of what one is doing with his life. The second, and the more favored, is finding meaning “from within oneself,” or simply conditioning oneself to enjoy whatever he currently has in life. By giving meaning in life as such in relation to one’s existence, we subscribe to Taylor’s latter suggestion. Taylor even wrote: “The meaning of life is from within us, it is not bestowed from without, and it far exceeds in its beauty and permanence any heaven of which men have ever dreamed or yearned for.”

In essence, to give life definition is not solely to absolve one’s self of its meaninglessness, but rather, also a way of making life matter, which R.M. Hare defined as a word that “isn’t intended to describe something that things do, but to express our concern about what they do.” It is a way to show that life as such is our concern.

However, coming to grips with life’s meaninglessness is not a requisite for an individual in order for him to give meaning to his life. The fear that drives us to find reason can either be a conscious thought or something wired within our unconscious. In most cases, the latter is the more realistic scenario. Furthermore, very few would even entertain the thought of life’s meaninglessness; it is not an idea suited for everyone. Just as a reader does not have to acknowledge the fact that a text’s meaning is entirely up to him and, without his interpretation, the book is meaningless, people can give meaning to their lives even without recognizing life’s apparent meaninglessness.

 

*Previously published in The Cerurove, October 2017 under the title: “On finding what never was”

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro is the founding editor-in-chief and creative director of The Brown Orient; prose editor at |tap|, Rag Queen Periodical, and The Ceruroveand tweets at @notjanedeyro.

SAD SANDWICHES: Baloney & Plastic Wrapped Cheese, no mayo by Moriah M. Mylod

Seeing my mother standing there with all of her grandchildren looking more infantile

Walking around, carrying the infant that is me

Wishing I had a dad that took us fishing not teaching us anything about how to fish

Wishing I had a dad…

Finally in time, I have created a family

A family I have always needed

Though I sought out glimmers of it in friends’ homes

Nobody celebrates the victories that were overcome

But, I did…

Nobody will acknowledge the injustices that were lived through

But, I will…

Connecting it to all of humanity’s sufferings?

So…

No, I am not unique

I am not profound

I am not special like a child

Knowing now what it is like to be a woman as I witness my mother

Applying her makeup as tears drain from her eyes

Reapplying her gritty mascara as it smears her sandy foundation

Readjusting and pulling up her “big girl panties”

Maybe, it was just an Arizona Oppression

Peering outside from inside of the nail salon window

Seeing that we were in a strip mall parking lot

There were brand-new cars spilled over like apple carts

Yes,  SPEND & CONSUME

Because buy shiny, you’re dull

You’re shiny, buy dull

Getting my nails polished the color of Ivy Green Walls requesting to have a golden dot of the Phoenix Sun in the corner of my ring finger nail

In honor of the burn I’ve endured from trying to thrive in this desert land

I served my time here, Arizona, I mean

I  remember a prison that was my home, 12 years long

Where I died

To travel back in time, then slowly re-birthed 8 years later in a nail-salon

Smelling the offense of mercury laced strawberry lotion from China

The middle-aged woman beside me tripped and said that her “middle name is Grace” as she almost met the ground

Wasting my time here was like too many evenings organizing a junk drawer

Wondering if these thoughts I am having were from the Acetone leaking onto my brain;

“What if Santa Clause was Buddha?”

Giving us gifts to remind us that all suffering stems from desire

Want more…

Gratitude, now?

Happy New Year!

The Great Depression Coffee in here tastes like eau de toilette

We fight ourselves

In 4th dimensions

Measurements

Juices iced-down

Then, sized up

Smoke break?

Air break?

Which is it?

One or the other?

Or both?

Hyper-cubes

5th dimension

Taking data

Knowing nothing

Stuck in space eating mental breakdowns for breakfast in forms of sad sandwiches

AND Stuck in here with Danny, asking me for my socks

I’m glad I gave him a pair of clean ones for Molly

But I didn’t know they weren’t for her

He gave them back to me an hour later

Oh Danny, may God be with you and all the feet you sniff, lick and taste

ARIZONADESERTMYLOD

Sketch drawing in ink by MMM

“Pest Control” and “Dissociative Amnesia” by Kristin Ryan

Kristin Ryan Poems

Pest Control

I.
There are always roaches
in the corners of my mind.
I’m in the kitchen washing cups
at the sink and time skips.
Skips as in: I’m six and splinters
are in my back. Skips again:
roaches crawl over me. Skips again:
the sink is overflowing and
soap suds run down my arm.

This happens more and more.
When I walk down the hallway
to the bedroom, in the shower,
the nights where I’m brave enough
to be touched. My husband’s hands
are always gentle, they always will be.
I know this like I know windows can
be opened and closed. It’s my fault.
I’m the one that triggered you.
I feel like a predator. How do
I tell him hearing this hurts
more than what I remember?

.

.

.

.

 

 

 

II.
It’s during a therapy session
I learn kids mistake hands
for roaches and other bugs
when recalling memories.
The realization stings.
My trembling rattles
her office windows.
My sobs startle both of us:
“I wanted to be wrong.
I wanted to be wrong.”

When I come home,
my husband is packing up
the kitchen for our move.
How was therapy?
I shake my head and cry as
he wraps his arms around me.
“I didn’t want to be right.”

 

 

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image: Ashley Goldberg

 

 

Dissociative Amnesia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kristin Ryan is a poet working towards healing, and full sleeves of tattoos. She is a recipient of the Nancy D Hargrove Editor’s Prize in Poetry, and was a Write Bloody Finalist. Her poems have been featured in Glass, Jabberwock Review, and Spider Mirror, with work forthcoming in Five:2:One, among others. She holds an MFA from Ashland University and works in the mental health field. She tweets @kristinwrites