Binding

like rosebushes around your ribs,
pressing against your chest like you’re slow dancing.
There is something romantic in this breathlessness,
the slight rasp it evokes; you feel like you could burst.
Your body could become a firework, the kind that makes your ears ring,
and there is something freeing in that destruction.
It is not safe this way, tape clinging to you like it’s afraid you’ll leave,
but the marks it leaves have always been there­ hidden beneath your skin like kids beneath their
blankets on Halloween, imagining what the monsters under the bed look like.
In this moment you alone own your body, allowed to twist
it away from him, but more importantly, towards her.
When it hurts so bad your ribs fold like a dollhouse,
and you’ve stolen too many breaths from the Duane Reade,
You take it off. It feels like…


Cole Neufeld is an emerging writer, and currently studying in New York. They’re a sexual abuse survivor and often explore the after effects of trauma in their work- particularly in interaction with gender. They write poetry and short fiction, all within the lens of functioning outside the binary as a visibly queer individual. They identify as a non-binary lesbian and delve into the intersection and crashing of those two identities.

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On Loss – Poems by Sergio Ortiz

I Refuse to Lose You
I follow you to the street
where best regards
forms a corner wall
with the breeze.

Where my body fights
to enter the overflow of mist
in your cloisters.

Where clouds move inside a space
beyond grief or understanding,
and memory, my scandalous mirror,
always tells a lie.

Filled with longing
I came to you prepared for ghosts
and found whispers.

 

The Pianist
We buried him yesterday.
Night finds little if any consolation
in embellished stars,
and although I have stopped crying,
I still sigh.

I listen to music
when there is nothing
but the luscious scent
of emptiness.

You were my fallen flower,
my one thousand gifts
of heavenly abundance,
my banquet of endings.


Sergio A. Ortiz is a queer Puerto Rican poet and the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. He is a two time Pushcart nominee, a four time Best of the Web nominee, and a 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have been published in hundreds of journals and anthologies. He is currently working on his first full length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.

Orbits

I.

In your own chaos

you reached out

recognizing

the imminence

of mine.

 

Your unexpected touch

turned my gaze.

Eyes locked

we previewed

the bitter darkness to come

–the night in which

your lamplike eyes

would be my only lantern.

 

Together,

you said.

 

II.

Night did come

(your premonitory accuracy

still astounds me).

Hand on my heart

the second time.

 

Together,

you reminded.

 

III.

Your warmth still

tethers me

to sanity–

even on days

when I teeter,

even

when the precipice calls

and I flirt

with answering.

 

IV.

Still one act away

I hesitate

in the shadows of creativity,

my longing

preparing me for another night.

Will I greet her

with your eyes

to guide me?

Or

will your lanterns be

swallowed

by a sea of darkness

in Act V?

 


Malo is a queer artist who oscillates between the fear of being discovered and being forgotten.

On Love and Longing – Poems by Sergio Ortiz

Eros and his Hidden Lover
Trapped in my surroundings,
my place of birth, a ray of moonlight
unfolded, revealing the fragrant lavender petals
of a desert flower. I moved closer,
desperate to express my longing,
and calm the madness
in Eros’s eyes.

I found my way to his tent
where voices of distant seas inhabit me,
where fear blinks as I learn to die
from the multiple definitions of East and West,
empty like the cracks in dry desert earth.

A needle stitched my tears.
Two thousand years in the thorny hands
of gods, a bitter pleasure.

Two worlds, two discernments.
Lost in the distracted indiscretion
of time. Stunned
and twisted.

We should rehearse
for the day when we go blind.
We should all learn to read with our fingers
the braille of scars on arms and sperm
of melted candles. Remove for one night,
every fortnight, the white bulb in our bedroom.

Because before death
comes blindness. And Charon will not accept
fear as payment to cross the river.

For a winged birth
steel must cut the meat
and throw away the body.
It is not the sky that grants us flight.
It is the fall.

Think nothing of it
if at the shrine of your life I am cured
of madness, for I taste silence
in the book of words.

Talk to me, soothe my capricious pulse
with the fluttering chants of hummingbirds.
I wrestle blasphemous shadows tonight.

Boots lie under my pillow,
memories of you in love with orchids.
This heartache does not want to be tamed.
There is sorrow on my face, and I have lost
my way out of the woods on the very night
swallows vanished amid strangers.


Sergio A. Ortiz is a queer Puerto Rican poet and the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. He is a two time Pushcart nominee, a four time Best of the Web nominee, and a 2016 Best of the Net nominee. His poems have been published in hundreds of journals and anthologies. He is currently working on his first full length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.

Poetry Double Feature

Spurt

Mom nags, “Don’t swallow that or it’ll grow into a tree.”

Black watermelon flecks splinter. Cherry pits wither.

Tiny kiwi dots get lost. Kumquat gives up the ghost.

I gag on a peach stone. But a tight-housed seed

pared from a fruit Jessie stole from an abandoned lot looks

like pay dirt. Jessie knows how much I wanna be the
climate to grow a little shoot that shoots like his. I choke
it down with a chlorine gulp from the hose. Stretch open
my mouth to the sun. After three days, not even a
tickle. Jessie investigates with flashlight and tongue de-
pressor. See a sprig climbing past my tonsil-trellis, upside down through the wrong mouth? I try to stop making spit in case the sprig’s drowning.
Jessie insists intestines are dirtier than my tummy,
so he lifts my skirt with his magnifying glass. Sand?
Loam? Clay? Enough nitrogen? Jessie wiggles his green
thumb to investigate. With a gentleness I don’t expect,
he tamps the dirt around a hole dug long ago and licks
soil to taste vitamins. The seedling might be thirsty, yes?
I hesitate at the watering can spout. Should I find out this
way, at eight,
whether I
am fallow
ground
or fertile?


Pecker

Scotia, 1901. We swap a two-man saw
for a lift to the clinic.
Doctor boils water, administers laudanum.
(We dream of felling timber with an axe
the old fashioned way.)
A spill squalls us awake.
Sex
is the first diagnosis.
Doctor disappears with the specimen
and returns to show us F
marked on the certificate
next to Laurel, familiar as graded lumber.
We swaddle her in Eliza’s skirt,
bandaging a pale whorl that fists shut.
A strange scar.

Sweet spots hum in a hollow trunk
found by father
working himself to a lather.
“Timber!” echoes at odd hours.
At a safe distance, Laurel takes knife to scrap,
carving peckers from filch-sawn fir,
wings uneven, beak stunted.

Woodpeckers at lesser bark
tap to draw lice and larvae.
They telegraph each other, too:
long misspelled missives
that illiterate trees can’t read
drum across the forest.

Laurel doesn’t suspect peckers’ variety of tongue protuberances:
curled between skull and skin,
barbed for hooking insects,
brush to suck sap,
spear-like tip,
bristles.


Julian Mithra queers desire through performance poetry, collage zines, found footage video, and cut up books. Their work fragments the erotic drive to manifest and the destructive drive to expurgate. When they emote, people listen; then get uncomfortable. In California, they’ve formally studied material culture, folklore, narrative, and the avant garde. Informal studies range from leatherwork to Dada. Their work appears or will appear in The Golden Key, Thank You For Swallowing, PoetryFilmKanal, Whirlwind Magazine, Pilcrow&Dagger, and Milvia Street. Find unsettling audio tracks on Soundcloud.com/sara-anika-mithra and watch soft focus poem videos on vimeo.com/saramithra.

Untitled by Moss

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“Wish You Were Here” by Moss. You can peruse and buy their art here.

my head against the van window/i hear snippets of conversation/“…jenner”/“i just don’t understand that sort of thing”/the conversation moves on/as these conversations do/i say nothing

the bathrooms here are unisex/i hear a parent say to their child/“these are for men and women”/i look at the bathroom sign/i am the white line in between two defined areas/i say nothing

“and the waves of conversation/laughter/shouts/around me are suffocating”

i can’t find the people i came with/and the waves of conversation/laughter/shouts/around me are suffocating/i went to the ocean once and was knocked over by waves/even now i can feel the riptide tugging at me/my phone is dying/i find a quiet spot and say nothing

the city is stretched out before me/i find some solace in its multicolored lights/i find more in the calm living darkness above it/lit softly by stars/3 students take pictures next to me of themselves/of the cityscape/laughing

“are you ok”/i am fine/(i am not fine)/(i am thinking about so many things)/the thin white line drags me down into its riptide/overheard conversations rise to greet me/i say nothing/and keep walking

morning comes/as mornings do/and music is the background for it/breakfast is content and filled with coffee/and meaningless words

“just what i like to see; beautiful women in a kitchen”/presumptions and assumptions/the thin white line is here as well/cutting off the words in my mouth/i say nothing and drink coffee

“why should i be careful / they were as careful as they should have been & they are dead still”

“our thoughts and prayers”/”be careful”/i am not careful/why should i be careful/they were as careful as they should have been & they are dead still/i wrap cardboard boxes/thinking of other boxes made of wood/and say nothing

“i am angry”/”i am sad”/god, i am terrified/i know i don’t belong/i say a few words and eventually they all come pouring out/i am on the bathroom floor texting my family/my sister asks my pronouns/my brother calls me by my name

i still feel that thin white line/but it is thinner now/the riptide is still there but i can swim in the ocean/i speak my thoughts/i keep walking forward/even as the water rises


Moss lives in a weird little room in a weird little house in a weird little city where it rains a lot. Sometimes they make tacos at night while swigging orange juice straight from the carton, in clear defiance of sanitation and a sense of human decency. They think the world is equally weird and beautiful, and they try to make art that is certainly weird and maybe a little beautiful. Their digital art can be found at redbubble.com/people/kmossifer