“The Devil of the Thorns” and “1981” by Lorhenz Lacsa


Lorhenz Lacsa Poems

The Devil of the Thorns


I am the Devil of the Thorns–

with my eyesockets filled with only

the darkness of the evilest typhoon


And pores of a juniper fern.

So bear with me as we entice the kings

of the world to think and turn


Against each other.

I already perfected my facial bones

because they will slap back harder


Than the truth that’s been waiting

to be unveiled; a sweet drug

covered in a crimson linen.


Running, always running, they are now

far from the paradise I once fought for.

The valleys were always on fire, I know,


But theirs is also chilling cold.

Are they living in a frozen hell?

How will I know,


I am just the Devil of the Thorns

and of the forest of merlot trees.

The twisted minds, they worship me.


But what is the state of thinking

to what you believe in?

It’s better to have a mind unwired


Than a heart that’s not pure

but pebbled grey, filled with the smoke

of the bonfire they used


To burn the witches they accused.

They are raging with hatred! Drenched

in blood! Their hands are colored ruby!


I felt the inferno in my skin too;

it scathed my skin and it curled as it was peeling.

Yet our dignity scorned is more harrowing.


They were taught by the gods they never knew.

So I creeped from the crack

of a parched, frosty detritus


And hissed and fought back.

To avenge against the kings of the world

and their gods who sent the fire


To my father and mother,

to my brothers and sisters,

to my myself and my lover.


I will continue to crawl

in the boundaries of your good and their wrong

of their odes and your songs.


Look at my horns and relive

the violence of the saints and the priests

then ask yourself who again


Strived for the angels’ freedom in heaven.

I, the Devil of the Thorns,

have my roses blooming too.



It is because of his eyes
that I fell into this roily trap
and hated and scorned,
spray painted red and groped.
It is his eyes and the roses
reflecting to them
that yet brings me hope.

It is because of his hair–
the silky curls with an attitude
that I am tied in a choking rope.
Chained, even so, to their rules
and conception. I fight to breathe
amidst the heavy blush smoke
to freely touch his hair with an attitude.

It is because of the way he talks
that I’m being stabbed by their eyes–
the same eyes of their god–
and whipped by their whispering tongues.
The communion table is where
they sacrifice our body parts
like crushed apples.

It is because of his wits and mysteries
that I was played like a rodent
inside a laboratory.
With all their techniques and radioactivity–
and lots of blood– that we don’t understand
as laymen
loving another laymen.

It is because of his kisses
that I always miss the turkeys and sweets
by staying behind the cracks and the walls–
“Hide me, hide us. Is it alright to hide? Should we show up now?”–
hiding and searching
from them and for myself
and his cherry kisses.

It is because of his passion
that I wet my pillows every night.
Sweaty and drunk, we dream of a day
when our children
will enjoy a drink in the bar
without the poison of fear
in their red wine glasses.

It is because of his love
that I fell into this trap
that I adore– I won’t even try to get up.
For if there is something that will bend,
it is not us,
but their mahogany walls and their church bells.
We will not end.

It is because of him–
my scarlet mage, my psychedelic lover–
that I grew a little further
and I will not try to let go
even if the whole world hates
every bit of us.
We will not end.




“Pine” and “Tuileries” by Kristin Garth


Poetry by Kristin Garth




Twilight, Tuileries, trembles, tulips, then

tomfoolery. Cafe au lait, collar new

beneath her trenchcoat, navy blue. Her yin,

the silver links his yang, the gold. She flew

to him nineteen years old. His growl

“good evening,” telephone — a voice

with fangs, a face unknown. She’s hotel howls

with bit, licked lips, stilettos, nude — his choice;

she’s wrapped in whips. She’s strung and strummed, starlet

du jour. In bows and stings, this lust matures.

First love a chain that buckles, chokes. Ardent

affirmations rosé, azure procure.

No ring such decadent desire denotes —

their bond, Louis Vuitton, around her throat.


Lotus by Stephanie Ledoux

image: Stephanie Ledoux “Lotus”




Incarcerated in her head, black oak

staircase, wrought iron bed. She’s put away

each night to pine, your babydoll, her broke

down mind. Secret the staircase, sky slate gray,

descent to darkness, as you say. Projects

a prison with restraints, padlocks — a toy

returning to its opened box. Perfect

she ponders, mental cage; supine, such poise,

that’s part refined/teenage. A needy girl

you teach to wait. Daybreak delights she dreams,

anticipates. Her arms entwined above

her head, pulled taut ribcage, ropeless regime;

bedspread sunbeams your coniferous grove.

Seedling selected for her fertile mind.

Inside, each morning, your exquisite pine.


Ronell Ferreira Pink Protea

Image: Ronell Ferreira “Pink Protea”

‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’: A Short Interview With Editor Isabelle Kenyon


Please Hear what I'm not Saying

terse editor: In the introduction to Please Hear What I’m Not Saying you mention how limited mental health services are in terms of funding and support. When did it first occur to you that you’d make the focus of your collection mental health in order to raise money for Mind, the mental health charity? Can you tell me what drew you to their organization specifically?
Isabelle Kenyon: The focus of mental health came about both from my observations of the poetry being shared across social media platforms, the themes of mental health emerging from those, and my desire to create a theme which was both broad, inclusive and would ignite a passion in writers to submit to the project. It had to be something people would feel passionate about – and so simply on principle of supporting Mind, people submitted their work. Mind, to me, has the largest profile of mental health charities in the UK and their money and the work they do reaches the largest audience. However, I am looking into also donating part of the profits of the book to other UK charities, perhaps smaller organisations who the proceeds from the book could really help.
terse editor: While sifting through the poems for the collection, as the editor, what were you noticing in terms of connections between writers? Mental health is their common theme, but any images, feelings, experiences bonding these writers together in solidarity through their craft?
Isabelle Kenyon: There were definitely themes emerging – in terms of style, distancing of mental health conditions through different tenses and in some cases personification of conditions such as depression. In terms of topic, themes of motherhood, Alzheimer’s, family, sarcasm, and self-reflection emerged. I have tried to group each section together in way which complements the work of each writer in the collection.
terse editor: Has compiling this collection opened your eyes or changed your approach to mental health discussions?
Isabelle Kenyon: I think the overall impression it’s had on me is: mental health is no small feat – conversation needs to become commonplace. This book has proved to me how wide spread and urgent it is for support to be in place for those who struggle with their mental health.
Please Hear What I’m Not Saying is now available in paperback and ebook format.

Yum Yum Time by Elisabeth Horan

Arsenic Hour


Hello shattered baby. Lie down – and come, I want to be free with you – I want to be something new for you – to be your new pet. I’m so fun: you drinking / me drinking fun. I want our party to be the kind they love – they covet our things, our makeup, our thighs, our non-existent pantilines. We are goddess lovers / we are body-snatchers. We are what love wishes it could be – calls us up and asks for advice on her asymmetrical nasal profile and pesky mustache whiskers. Bitch. Serves her right. Took yum yum from us all that 90s time. We are the light bright ponies lip sync karaoke twins – short skirts Timbalands hot as hell white light black jack tattoos Rosie Rivet – holsters for our whips on hips – Lesbians? Hell yeah. You butch, me femme, all tongue. Both of us, both of them. Canigetayesma’am? Shattered baby, Lisbeth lovely, tongue pierce kitten purr, purr lilla whisker pet – come, to momma, one more time and stay here: safety arms get paid in sex to protect you. Fun times love times come n get me some of this yum yum time.


The Price of Peace: A Review of Nguyen Phan Quang Binh’s ‘The Floating Lives’ by Tini Ngatini

Traversing Narrow Margins

Tini Review

I recently came across a Vietnamese film, The Floating Lives (Canh Dong Bat Tan), which was released in 2010 by Nguyen Phan Quang Binh. Although this film is a few years old, the issues that the director addresses still feel fresh and progressive from my perspective as an Indonesian woman who teaches courses on women, gender, sexuality and religion.

The plot follows the life of man referred to as Mr. Vo, a severely broken-hearted man whose wife has left him for reasons the film does not reveal. Fate has left him a single parent and a duck farmer. By the end of the film, Vo’s son is killed and his daughter is raped by a rival group of duck farmers. The events of Vo’s life take place against a rural backdrop of equally tragic social issues: poverty, illiteracy, and violence against women and children. While the frank portrayal of these issues is common in Western films, they may still shock a Vietnamese  audience who are unaccustomed to either seeing such issues depicted onscreen or even hearing them mentioned in open discussion.

What I find intriguing and disturbing, however, are the lines that come at the very end of this film, as they seem to contradict the film’s message up till that point. These pivotal lines are spoken by Vo’s daughter: raped and now pregnant,

Nowadays, Dad and I have stopped wandering, we have quit being duck-farmers and settled down in a small village. Everyday, dad can bring kids to schools by boat and I can see him smile. I will name this child Thuong [her own future baby]. He is fatherless, but surely he will go to school. He will be joyful all his life and be taught by his mother that children must know how to forgive the mistakes that adults make.

The closing statement: “Children must know how to forgive the mistakes that adults make,” seems to negate the film’s earlier advocation of the rights of women and children by asserting that victims of adults’ mistakes (in this case, like in many other real-life cases, the mistakes in question concern those of patriarchal violence) are morally obliged to grant exemption to their oppressors, with little emphasis on the moral obligations that face the perpetrators of such crimes.

This narrative of martyr-like “forgiveness” is problematic because it seems to suggest that victims of such life-altering acts of cruelty are to simply bear their grief and pain with silent dignity, instead of using their experience as a motivation to call for societal change that could prevent similar outrages befalling Nuong’s own progeny Thuong in the future (or perhaps more disturbingly, being enacted by him).

How are we to make sense of this apparent contradiction? Are we to read this line as an adult’s voice projected into the child character Nuong? If this is the case, then the film’s earlier advocacy of liberation from patriarchal violence is overshadowed by its recognition of the insurmountable problems preventing achievement of this goal.

The event of forgiveness in this example – the fictional character Nuong, lead me to think about the conditional forgiveness Jankelevitch discussed in Forgiveness. This kind of forgiveness requires the conditions remorse and/or a request for forgiveness on the part of the wrongdoer, as well as the promise from the wrongdoer that similar events will not happen again. In order for victims to effectively move on from a trauma, it may be necessary for additional forms of compensation such as counseling, healing programs, sanctuary or work training; to be provided by wider society. What the case shows us is the absence of expressions of remorse and follow-up actions on the part of the wrongdoer to mitigate the destructive affects of the past wrongdoing.

In this case, expressions of remorse will serve to acknowledge that what the character Nuong experienced is “normal,” rather than an attempt to expose, humiliate and/or criminalize the wrongdoer. The term “normal” here ; far from being used to play-down the seriousness of the events in question, merely means that these events, whilst horrific, are not rare or bizarre and that Nuong is not the only one to undergo such trauma.  However, such an absence of acknowledgment results in these experiences  remaining confined to the private space, unvoiced. That unvoiced status of such an experience also restricts policy makers within public and social spaces to make necessary steps such as counseling or child protection, either to mitigate the negative effects of the events on the victims or to protect other citizens from experiencing  similar trauma. In extreme cases, the absence of such acknowledgment could lead one to suppress the memory, which  to a certain degree, obstructs them from looking back into the memory itself and addressing the issue. Perhaps consequently,  the horrific experiences will continue to hover over one’s present life, conditioning their idea of relationships in general.

Jankelevitch’s idea of forgiveness could indeed be tricky because either it may remain a political performance with debatable value or, if the wronged party is indeed able to perform genuine forgiveness, an attestation to the political force of the ruling class. If, as this scene in the film indicates, forgiveness is unilateral, it further underlines the under-privileged status of groups such as women and children who are subtly forced to sacrifice their rights, including the right to remember.

Contrary to what most of us might think, inherent in the nature of political forgiveness is what actually protects that right to remember.

In order for society to properly utilize forgiveness in the case of traumatic events, I think the key is to find balance between helping the wronged party to find ways to continue with their life and giving public education to parents about topics such as domestic violence, healthy parenting and sexual abuse. That way peace can be restored without the need to sacrifice the right of the wronged party’s remembrance of their past which is, to a large degree, necessary for future life.



Jankélévitch, Vladimir. Forgiveness. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.


Tarotscope for Pisces Season Featuring the Five of Wands by Kailey Tedesco

Becoming Mysticore: A Guide to Post-modern Occult Empowerment


Purple plant


Tread lightly, but with purpose. Everything we need is all around us. This season is for healing, but healing may be the furthest thing from our minds right now. How can one heal when there is only the flood of pain oiling our basins, coloring the waters in which we attempt to bathe. The discord of Earth is palpable and our spiritual minds are heavy with the images of bodies, perfectly preserved, but trapped in our own muds. As children, we reached deep into a bog to unthread cranberries. We held them in our fists, and felt them pearl against our fingers. This was a great comfort. At this time, we are the bog, and the cranberries have been trampled by the peat. We must unearth them. We know this. We must remove the earth to feel something deeper, to find the bodies. We need to help everyone get back home.

But it is heavy, and we have never been asked to hold this particular weight before. The world and worlds are asking us to play with fire. They trust us to know how. When nothing grows, set the fields aflame & make better soil.

We are only one thing, though. How can we trust ourselves not to hurt what little has sprouted with our heat?

We, too, are longing for home, a place where our dreams can rest & chew at fruit in warmth — we want the nightmares to stop, and to drain the worlds of hurt. We are so afraid of what limits us, but we must not let our focus rest there. The internet, yet another realm we cannot touch but often feel, is full of anger & it is angering us. We are tempted to delete. Buttons make emotions lighter. Delete the anger. Delete the negative energies of others. Delete. Delete.

Deletion isn’t always helpful though — not when the fire has already started and the water is already undrinkable. It is a season of confrontation, but it is so hard to know where and how to direct our passion.

The wands are a card of energy & five is a number of union. Our energies are not wasted, only in too many places at once. Like the berries, they are under the Earth. We know they’re there, but to excavate them is yet another task for the tired mind.

We must dig & collect ourselves in fistfuls. Emotions can be chemical. We can pulp our anger into an energy, too. But our pestles are weighted. We must find others to help us.

We need help, and that is okay. Our bodies are not equipped to hold everything we must carry, alone.

Soon, the skies will open & rain will come. It will feel so good, washing the mud off of our heels. The fruits of our efforts will be revealed at our feet, where they have always been. We will take them to the hungry & we will feed ourselves.

A new power will blossom. Our bodies will learn a new way to stop pain, and we will collect this knowledge like something precious. It will go inside the alter of our sternums, and we will keep it in our blood so the newest of us can inherit it.

Drink now of the fruited water. It is a time for love, but not a time for rest. We must care for ourselves, but then we must find our people, and recognize that they are our mentors and we are theirs.

Soothe one another, and prepare for the revolution of our efforts. Rain is forecasted, but our new powers must not stop there.

We must ready ourselves for change.


from The Wild Unknown tarot deck

Simone’s Sermon by Jennifer Chukwu



Simones Sermon

Before judgment, I am obligated to inform you of Heaven’s updated terms and conditions. Humans keep killing each other at unprecedented rates, and to help with our population surge, angels like myself are working unpaid overtime to pilot a new program.

In the past, if you tried your best with your childhood and other circumstances, you would have been granted entrance into Heaven. Back then, we believed your soul and its experiences were the best indicators for salvation; however, we were too lenient. After the Salvation Board reviewed our population data, they realized by 2049 Heaven will have reached capacity. Therefore, the board has put me in charge of deciding who will and will not enter Heaven.

If I feel you represent humanity’s potential for evil or if you wasted your time on earth, you are going to Hell. If you have any questions or complaints, after judgment you are allowed to submit a ticket to HR. If your ticket gets reviewed, it is then escalated to the Salvation Board, where you might gain entrance into Heaven or a second chance at life. Now that we have reviewed the new terms and conditions, Brian, Sister Scholastica, and Elaine, I need all of you to line up in that order. Let’s begin before my lunch break.


book of brian

Book of Brian

Often your classmates asked, “Why are you so Black?” and your only response was to bury your head deeper into your algebra book until your nose touched the pages. You learned this tip from HALP.org, your favorite anti-bullying site. The users called it “turtling,” and it was great for ignoring bullies, teachers, and parents. You learned to trust the HALPers, but only after ignoring their initial advice. At the beginning of your freshman year, you tried defending yourself.

Your head shot out of your book and you said,

“’Cause Black is beautiful.”

“Not when it is covered in acne,” a classmate responded, and the class laughed.

After school, your parents asked questions they believed were encouraging. Was today better?” “Are you at least getting straight As?”  “Are you thinking about re-trying out for the basketball team?”

You nodded yes and no answers and headed to your room, but before you made it upstairs, your parents reminded you of your upcoming appointment with Dr. Lanning, the dermatologist.

When it came to your skin, they were desperate.

Your parents hoped that if the acne went away, then you would start looking better. From the infomercials, they heard of a new drug: Radoxin. It did wonders for people with acne. There were possible side effects, things like hair loss, feelings of depression, or severe skin rashes. But, all the pimples went away! Your appointment was the next day. At first you were excited, but after reading the side effects, you became terrified. That fear was for good reason. You became the third wrongful death lawsuit.


The day before you started your medication, you stared at your ceiling, waiting for daylight to disappear. You tried dreaming of your future, but you could only imagine ways to survive another school week. That week, you had already survived Thursday and only Friday remained. Fridays were great because there was pizza and Ms. Elaine, the associate teacher, always gave you a slice of pepperoni even though your parents only paid for cheese. Sometimes, if you had the courage to ask, you got a free soda, too. Ms. Elaine understood your pain. After her haircident in elementary school, she was never the same. Things became a bit better when she started following her favorite social media star, Lissa Evans’ accounts and her Inspirational Monday Message.

I know…humans will believe anything another human creates, but ask them to believe about God and angels and they say “LOL.”

Anywho, whenever she saw you, she hoped one day you would also find your cure.

After Fridays, it was the weekend, and you loved sneaking out the house. The first time your parents caught you sneaking out you told them you were meeting your girlfriend. They were too thrilled to question. Your dad gave you a condom and then winked at you. Your mother said you were becoming the man of the house.

The truth: the few times you talked to a girl happened when she wanted to play connect the dots. You were excited, even when she started tracing your pimples with her fingers. Once, she could’ve sworn she found The Big Dipper on your left cheek. Your simple ass laughed along with her.

Instead of meeting up with a girlfriend, you waited by the sides of the streets, bored. During these bouts of boredom, you thought about your options. You were not good at sports; last time you tried to shoot a basketball, you hit the coach on her head. You were a straight Bs student, the definition of average. Killing yourself was not an option—the lead chatter in HALP said so. Also, it took too much effort. You would have to pick a place, and then a thing to do it with, and you did not want to be a news story like the school’s secretary, Ms. Denora Johnson.

After you finished wandering and thinking about your options, you visited your friend, Mr. Elt, who lived between First and Pleasant Avenue. He was only seven years older than you, but insisted on the title of Mister because he was an “experienced” man. You trusted him because he looked like you and understood your struggle. Together in a coffee shop, you counted his earnings from playing overturned buckets as drums while cars waited in traffic. For his friendship and wisdom, Mr. Elt asked for a favor.

Lately, New Yorkers had been stingier than usual, and he needed an income other than playing drums. Per Mr. Elt’s request, you told him whenever you spotted a woman with a purse walking alone. Things were fine until one day a teenager caught him and called him an “ugly son of a bitch.” He had been called ugly before, but this time was the last. In his eyes, this woman was no Beyoncé, and you agreed.

You went over to help the woman. She did not recognize you, but you knew her. She was a senior at your high school. She was never particularly mean or nice to you. She reminded you of all the girls in your school. You figured getting revenge on one would right all the wrongs. By Mr. Elt’s third incident, you started having fantasies about hurting women. You imagined pushing them in front of buses.

After Mr. Elt’s fifth incident, more women you spotted started appearing on the news and your fantasies became darker. The reporters told women to travel in groups and look out for a man that matched Mr. Elt’s description. You should have reported him, but instead you listened to his shitty and depressing advice. He told you it did not get better. Your face would not change. The only hope was to treat women the way that everyone had treated you. Eventually, the goal was to trap a woman and make her feel like she was nothing without you. He told you that you had to achieve this goal by any means necessary.

Know what, this review is dragging, and a bunch of killed clubbers were just added to the Heaven queue. Brian, here are your take aways: you had a growing resentment for women because people made fun of you, if you are lucky and get another chance at life, read Chicken Soup for the Soul and How Not to Be a Sexist Pig, and turn in Mr. Elt. Before your acne medication killed you from Steven-Johns Syndrome, you enjoyed hearing about his exploits, and started planning ways to become just like him. At least you died before you completely followed in his footsteps.


book of scholastica

Book of Scholastica

At 8:30 AM, the school bell rang. At 3:00 PM, your students stampeded toward freedom. Both your and your students’ days were repetitious. When the children left, you remained seated at your desk and repainted your paddle’s handle. Since you were young, you wanted nothing more than to be surrounded by friends in Heaven. The moment that Jesus saw all the souls you saved, you knew that He would do the right thing and make you the new Right Hand in Heaven.

Oh, Honey, what were you thinking? That was never going to happen. If it makes you feel better, I think you have a great chance of being Lucifer’s Right Hand.

While still believing in this impossible dream of being the Lord’s Right Hand, you joined the covenant and then became a teacher at Sorrows Academy. At the beginning of the day, you picked up the wooden paddle and had your third-grade class recite John 3:16. The uniform sound of their voices uplifted your soul. Though they were children of God and angelic at times, you felt that they needed a guided path toward salvation.

When you first started teaching, you thought the path was paved by stern lectures, group prayers, and reduced recesses. But for months, the children would not behave no matter what you did. They drew on their desks, they swore when they thought you were not listening, and terrorized you with crude jokes. In your darkest hour, another older Sister talked about her glory days in the 70s and recommended the paddle. After this recommendation, things were never the same.

In your eyes, every day became blessed.

The children listened, prayed, and obeyed. At times, children were children, and they tried to revert back to their playful habits. During those times, which happened once or twice every school day, you tightened your grip on the paddle. Whenever you struck, you made sure the forces of Heaven and Hell were behind you. Whenever the child howled, it was for God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. These children learned how to cry out for mercy and repentance. The Old Testament workbooks and Father Cooke’s sermons failed them. The children were young and still had terrible lives to live. Nothing could save them but God, and paddling them was the only path toward redemption.


Your classroom had the dumbest rules:

First rule: No doodling in your workbooks.

From seven years of teaching, you learned that children doodle foul pictures—such foul things would not be tolerated in Heaven. Children who wanted to doodle in their workbooks could either go to Hell or to transfer to Sister Angelica’s class.

Second Rule: Outside was outside. Inside was inside.

News, unless it pertained to the Pope, did not belong in the classroom.

Third Rule: Bad behavior is never rewarded.


Your students were two hours away from dismissal and before they would escape, you decided to teach Elaine, one of your students’, a lesson. In order to save her, you needed to ensure that she understood her transgressions. While you sat behind your students during Mass, you caught Elaine playing with her pigtails. You heard rumors that Elaine allowed classmates to play with her hair and braid it in exchange for free juice boxes, cookies, and sometimes the answers for the day’s Tree of Knowledge question. To match Elaine’s light brown skin, she had long brown hair that all her classmates, especially the boys, marveled over. You worried for Elaine. If this behavior continued, what type of woman would she become once she left Sorrows Academy? She had no respect for her God-given soul and body. Not only did she distract herself from Father Cooke’s sermon, but allowed the students to buy her happiness. These were actions only allowed by future Whores of Babylon. You spent the weekends checking every single lesson plan to make sure the Devil never had a way of accessing your future friends through careless words or mistakes. But somehow, right under your nose, the Devil had attached himself to Elaine’s hair.

While tapping your pilgrim shoes, you ordered Elaine to walk to the front of the classroom. Your students’ hands twitched; they wanted to cover their ears. However, after the second blessed day, each of them learned that covering their ears was bad behavior. In order to completely understand their fellow classmates’ depravity, they needed to hear the screams of repentance. Your students’ hands gripped their desks. Elaine closed her eyes and her pigtails swung forward. The children watched them, the pendulums of her sin. You refused to stop until Elaine reached salvation. This child needed to learn her lesson or lose her soul.

Elaine said, “Please stop.”

You replied, “I cannot. John 15 verse 9. ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.’”

Elaine began screaming and you smiled. You hesitated for a moment. Perhaps Elaine finally learned her lesson and could return to living in God’s light. But in that moment of hesitation, she ran to the door and out of the classroom. The students looked at you and did not know whether to cheer or beg her to return. You set your paddle down, and walked after Elaine. This was not the first time one of your future Heaven-friends tried to escape. You fixed your habit and walked to the classroom across the hallway. There, you saw Elaine banging on the locked door of Sister Teresa’s classroom. Her class was away at recess, a spoiling reward for all her students getting above an 8/10 on the Tree of Knowledge quizzes for an entire week. With a calm smile, you took her by the hand and both of you walked to your classroom. You placed your paddle back into your desk drawer and grabbed a pair of scissors.

“You must remain in my love,” you said as you snipped off the two pigtails, and then tossed them into the trashcan. When Elaine returned to her desk, the other students tried not to look at her. Visibly mourning Elaine’s pigtails was bad behavior and would result in all being brought to the front of the classroom. The students watched you as you picked stray hairs off your hands.

So, you are definitely Hell-Bound.


book of elaine

Book of Elaine

Ever since your haircident with Sister Scholastica, your hair never grew back, and you never felt the same. Bless her soul, but your mother never wanted a child and did not understand how your hair worked. And then, your father, though Black, was not interested in teaching your mom about Black hair. The only hope was Mr. Marc, your hairdresser, but the bastard kept you in the Ringo cut.

After the haircident, you begged your mom to change schools, but Sorrows Academy was the best in its district. Also, she was secretly happy your hair was shorter and much more manageable. After a few fake sick days, you returned to school. Your haircident became legendary, and for years, your classmates stayed away from you. Partly out of fear of Sister Scholastica, partly because of the terrible haircut, and lastly because you were your grade’s suspected lesbian. Things changed a little in college—you found a different hairstyle.

After college graduation, you realized how much you owed in student loans, and decided to become a teacher. You returned to Sorrows Academy because they enjoyed hiring alumni, paid for your masters, and every other job said “No.” You figured you would protect students. Though you were overworked, underpaid, and somehow in even more debt, you were able to remove Sister Scholastica from Sorrows Academy. The principal and the Father knew about her disciplinary methods, but they overlooked them because of her classroom’s consistently high test scores over the years. After your independent investigation, you exposed the truth: Sister Scholastica gave students answers on test days. She believed the only test that mattered was the test of faith. She was fired that day. She was so bored during her forced retirement that she died earlier than expected.

As a reward, your roommate and “best friend” convinced you to finally use your vacation days for an eat, pray, love trip. Her reasoning: you were exhausted, recently dumped, and she was tired of listening to you cry through the walls. For your eat pray love trip, you went to NYC, then New Orleans, and then Vegas for some lovin’.

One day, while waiting for your margarita at a bar, you saw your idol—Lissa Evans. Two years ago, she moved to Vegas to work as a social influencer. She had dedicated her life to helping people like you. She posted photos of her daily adventures at clubs, exclusive restaurants, and expensive stores, with captions like, “Be your best self,” “Life is your adventure,” and “Beauty is subjective and you are always the subject.”

She had 6 million followers, and they worshipped her. She was beautiful, free, and made you feel like you could be that, too. Following her on social media for a year made your vanity return to what it was before the haircident. During your trip of self-love, you took on her philosophy and emptied your savings. You bought things and took pictures with things to show your worth. While in Vegas, you hoped to spot her but never imagined meeting her face to face.

After two years of living in Las Vegas, Lissa met fans like you everyday. To cope with how boring the day-to-day became, she came up with a set of routines to start her morning. While your mornings started with liking her most recent pictures, hers started at 11:00 AM with inserting her CD “Summer Loving” into her entertainment center. The only song on it was “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry. After listening to it endlessly, she left her apartment and drove down the Vegas strip to watch the gamblers, beggars, and vacationers stumble down the street. Eventually, when she finished observing, she parked her car and joined her favorites at the bar to talk them up. After she saw you snapping pictures in front of every store on the strip, you became one of her favorites.

When she sat next to you at the bar, you wanted to take a picture with her as proof you met your idol, but Lissa told you put your phone away. She said,

“A day like this you want to barely remember.”

Though you did not understand her, you listened. She was your idol, and taught you how to live your life. While together, she told you that you were beautiful and you became comfortable, wanting to do everything she suggested. You left the bar and went clubbing. The two of you danced together. Although there were moments that you felt uncomfortable, you overrode your fear because this vacation was becoming the perfect story. You would not only nod yes or no when your roommate asked if you had a great time; finally, you would have a fun story to tell that was better than all of hers combined. Five minutes into this friendship, you called Lissa perfection. Fifteen minutes in, you cried about your recent breakup that was caused by your insecurity-fueled paranoia and your ridiculous work schedule. After twenty minutes, she got bored of you and your compliments, and after thirty, she knew you served part of her purpose. She grabbed your hand and asked,

“Are you here with anyone special?”

You tightened your grip and said,

“I’m by myself. This is my own eat, pray, love trip. I went to NYC, then New Orleans, and now I’m in Vegas, baby.”

Woman to woman, you should not have said that.

Lissa became even more excited than before.

You were another Vegas Virgin, and the fourth eat, pray, love girl that she had found in the past two months!

She ordered another round of drinks, and then left for the bathroom. With the stupidest smile, you swayed back and forth on the dance floor to the latest hits as you imagined her freshening up. In reality, she key-bumped in the stall, and then stared at herself in the bathroom mirror as she savored the minutes before her next steps.

For Lissa, last night was good not great. She killed you. She killed you with kisses, a plastic bag, and a spool of nylon rope. Before the night reached its climax, she sat you down on the couch and said it was time to try something different. She put on “Summer Loving” and tied your hands together with rope and placed a plastic bag over your head. She promised that when you tapped her back, she would take the bag off.

This moment was intoxicating so you put your fear away. While the bag was over your head, she ate you out and her lips became slippery with your cum. You gasped. Banged your fists on her back. Then you stopped.

Your roommate filed a missing persons report because you did not pay rent. She is still looking for you, but you are decomposing in the trunk of a car. You should have loved yourself, been more cautious, and etc. I am not sure if you learned your lessons and I do not have time to keep lecturing.


book of judgement


Book of Judgment

Sister Scholastica, Lucifer has been expecting you since the day you were born. Why are you looking surprised? I already told you that you were going to Hell. Then Brian, your death means two blonde girls in Manhattan live to text another day; so, I won’t have to deal with their paperwork until they die of toxic shock syndrome or alcohol poisoning. Brian, stop crying, trying to use your victim card will not help here because somehow in in Heaven every human is some sort of victim. Elaine, honestly, I don’t have time to fill out the paperwork for your second chance at life or onboard you to Heaven, so I’ll send you to Hell. Once I’m back from lunch, it is the round up, and all of you will go down together.

“May I please speak with another angel?”

Elaine, do not interrupt me. It is always the same with you humans. You come here pleading; meanwhile, we constantly save and are overworked while you destroy and indulge. Then, we have to explain why what you are doing is wrong. You all are violent, brutal, and ugly. It is in my professional opinion that Heaven needs to close its doors, but that is above my wings.

If anyone has a problem with this judgment, please direct yourselves to HR. I am not answering any questions. It is my lunch break, and today the cafeteria is serving milk and honey.


Four Poems by Noelia Young


Listen in on a private reading by Noelia Young, a slam poet based in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Her poetry discusses important themes: racism, wisdom, growth, and survival.

Time stamps for each poem:

“To My Racist Friend” 00:29

“Advice To My College Self” 03:38

“Lulla-bye” 7:01

“Me Too” 10:34


Arsenic Hour: my middle aged women troubles

Arsenic Hour

gif by Nancy Liang

This is the debut of Elisabeth Horan’s column, Arsenic Hour. Here is its namesake poem.



Here comes a bad one. Pearled teeth, gnarled hands, knife fingers, bomb breasts, snake limbs, tortoise pelvis, wolf anus, pronghorn genitals. Here comes the malfeasance. Ivory ban, fingernail grind, tusked cheeks, flat bill palette, five toes times five legs, monstrously amphibious, heat seeking whore platypus. Squat and jealous. Here comes the lady in red. Competitive. Hormone pinch hitter, estrogen wane, progesterone filler, wants things of testosterone nearby her; a dildo toy killer. Hypothyroid gets her best, statin spies through this fat girl’s dress. Here comes young queen bee, she’s queen till tomorrow’s sorrows. Hippocampus dehydrated, frontal lobe sliced mango, cortex, correct me, umm, sliding unstable, emotions hostage, child for ransom. Speaking of gloves, here’s the kid, here’s the mother. More immature this ovary banter, this Questcomm demeanor; Elvira thong, Judge Judy pants, this earth-bitch wishes for a pod like Mrs. Jetson’s. Dishes, cuticle crack, thumb condom, mustache wax. Pajamas, pantiliner, low slung breasts, boring penis, always Mr. Right: flaccid. Middle age mayhem: anemic theater. Of war and love, no date is cheaper than this female, dullard woman; dial up trauma-hype and penitence; frugal.

We who are lost; Mmm, Nope; Neurotic Lullaby



Three poems by contributor Elisabeth Horan


We who are lost

Find each other in warehouses

Too late sometimes, it’s in graveyards.

Always emaciated,

dumpster diving for attention


Overweight on alcohol

anorexic acceptance rates

like High school anxiety

shave the head

try on personalities


We who find each other

and save some last hope

from each self we carry

give momentus hope for

self care, for having less


Night terrors,

the bruises calming

from catalyst snarls

aubergine pockets to mottled

Eye sockets


Mottled to moss

moss blankets earth.

bury the hatchet,


bury the hurt


We who are lost.

We who are found.

Hold fast my hand


My dirt. My coffin,

You’ re under ground now

to find me; you’re

diving in

head first.


Mmm, Nope

If all is human nature
and I am part of that

You say it all just comes from it
the good the sick the bad.

Then what of the abhorrent?
The tired two-timing tricks I invent

To make things into feelings
which they are not. And how/what

The fuck are feelings, anyway?
If all is natural behavior, then do

Not mark me as present, for I’ve pushed the
virtuous to drown, the heroe to bite

Off his own hand. For lack of better synonym,
I demanded him to eat a bone;

I once told a child I’d adopt him –
then promptly left town… see?

Collapse improvise TNT concrete
swinging ball chain mimic war cry.

If I am human – let the
dogs be gods, if I am natural –

Shall water be the poison grog.
If I am something you can swallow,

Whole, not choke upon – even
actions of desertion, MIA if me=treason

(which you readily accept),
no questions, asked, not even a

Background check, then I caution, rather-
strongly advise the baby steps

Toward my person, toward my slick
granite gargoyle creepy crawlies tone deaf

Cackling cheeked broom rider
co-dependent needy; a drinking fish.

I wish for any awesome kind of cigarette –
quell my lack of self-care messiness.


Neurotic Lullaby

I’m lost in smoke
snake gardens
Bats come, I am one

Snake sickness,
Shodokon shadow:
haunts. Hunts. Bats are
my friends I belong
with them

Lost in caves
deep in your mouth
a cave, your heart, a cave
your throat, and art

My heart, concaving
bleeding out
lowest white count
little lamb
         this is the year of the snake

I deny swallowing shadows
I deny I am too good
all I did is so sickness

Knows to grow inside the coils;
heating mold up to base temp;
kill temp

Rocking rocking
bye bye

Frightening the babies
bats in closets
me in your throat
swashbuckling snakes

This is sickness.
Bat shadows envelop
and hide fangs
which eat things in caves

I am one I am one
rock knee rock knee
grab on to me –
I grab you, hungry.


Follow Elisabeth Horan on Twitter @ehoranpoet