Oot

So I wiz oot hittin’ the clubs wae ma besto Tammy. We were at the Rusty Nail cause the music’s gid and the lads dinnae try and touch us up, but anyways, a saw this woman in the middle of the dance floor. I mean, I can admire a lassie’s good looks and aw that but this yin was like WOWZA.

I couldnae take ma eyes aff her. Her big knockers were shoved into this sparkly dress, lookin’ like a pair’a disco balls. And by god she couldnae half dance. I WANT her, like I’ve never wanted a woman in aw ma life. But naw! I shouldnae WANT her, I’m a straight woman, with a straight boyfriend. I cannae be into girls, can I? It’s the drink. It hus tae be the drink. Why do I feel like I want to flirt wae her, dance aw saucy wae her, snog her? I’ve never gone aw lesbian when I’m pished. It must be the Midoori.

“D’ye want a drink, Molly-hen?” Tammy asks me.

I yell something like, “Geez another Midoori and lemonade” as I walk up tae the hottie oan the dancefloor.

I dance up tae her, compliment her oan her amazing hair when she turns roon tae face me.

She wiz a man! And no jist any man, MY MAN, Gaz. Gaz? He wiz wearin’ his sister’s dress and aw. Is he… naw, he canny be. He canny be… gay can he? Why would he lead me on? His mam and da?

God love them, but they’re backwards bastards. They hate gays tae fuck. They think they’ll catch HIV being in the same room as a gay man. Jesus! Am a just a fuckin’ front tae Gaz? The stupit, clueless wee wifey? Does he even mean it when he’s sayin’ he loves me? Yet here he wiz, usin’ ma makeup and drinkin’ some fruity wee cocktail to bum random men in the loos?! And he hus the cheek tae tell me he’s lookin’ after oor dug! Ma heed wiz spinnin’, and I wiz ready tae strangle him.

“Gaz!” I shouted. His face fell. Caught red handed. “A word!” I indicated to the door, and we headed oot.

We walked past the bouncer, and the wind blew aboot my hair and his wig. Gaz looks like he’s aboot to greet.

“Whit the fuck is goan on Gaz?”

“It’s… it’s no what it looks like.” Whimpered Gaz, his glossy lip quiverin’, tears runnin’ doon his face.

“Well whit is it then?”

“I’m no the man you think I am.”

I fumed, “That’s apparent ya great poof.”

“I’m no gay, Molly.”

Another ladyboy clatters out the door and comes towards us. “Gabriella!”

Gaz turns around. The drag queen came out to see us, “It’s my fault hen.” She said to me, “I wanted to take her on her first night out as a lady. She… was going to tell you, soon after.”

She? My man… isnae a man? I looked across at his drag queen friend, and then back at Gaz, completely dumbfounded.

“You’re… Gabriella now?” I asked him.

“I’ve- I’ve always been Gabriella.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“My parents… my whole family would disown me. And I could lose you. I love you, Molly.”

“I thought you were an actual…naw, course you’re an actual woman but… I thought you were a different woman, and a damn hot wan, tae.”

Gabriella beamed at me, “You think I’m a beautiful woman?”

I smile and nod, “Aye. I jist wished you’d told me. Ye know I love ye, no matter whit.”

At this point, Tammy came out. She took one look at Gabriella, and said, “Fucks sake Gaz, you look better in that than I dae!”

I look at my girlfriend. She looks at me. We look at her drag queen friend.

We burst oot laughin’.


Jen Hughes is a writer from Ayrshire, Scotland. She has been furiously scribbling ideas and writing elaborate stories from as early as age seven. She has been published in a wide variety of online journals and magazines such as the Pulp Metal Magazine, Idle Ink, McStorytellers and Ogivile Press; as well as having read out at various open mike and spoken word events in her area. Her up-to-date portfolio of short stories, flash fictions and poems can be found on her website www.jenhugheswriter.com. Jen is currently studying English Literature and Film &TV Studies in Glasgow.

On a Tuesday

Editor’s note: Content warning for discussion of domestic violence and death.


In my fervor to protect you
I never paused to consider
all that I lost
I did not have time to grieve,
to mourn, to cry
—nor did I know how.
Except in private hours
when I wept bitter tears
of frustration.

You ignored your phone the first time. After all, it was three in the morning, and our friends back home were notoriously guilty of ignoring the time difference (especially when they were drunk). When it rang again moments later, I bristled, annoyed that you rolled over to answer. Whatever it is can wait ’til morning.

But whatever it was had already waited nearly a full day before the police had shown up at your mother’s door, before your eldest sister had called you with an eerie calmness, before your mangled sobs suffocated you as though there were not enough air left in the atmosphere.

I could not hear the other line, but a pounding heart replaced my drowsiness. I knew the answers to my questions before you told me.

There are emotions
too big to name.
Instead, the weight of your grief
crushed your soul
into sparkling diamonds that slid down your cheeks.

Expressing empathy is not my strong suit. My emotion manifests as productivity; I am a planner. I was reading your work policy on bereavement before you put on socks. I was booking flights, making arrangements for a friend to water the plants. When I called my sister to ask if she would be able to pick us up from the airport, she cried at my even tone. She cried harder than I could imagine. I was jealous how effectively she grieved.

I am so sorry, my love
for the lives taken too soon,
for the emptiness you will never
be able to fill.

It was technically manslaughter. Murder implies intent, and on this particular day, I do not believe he had meant to kill them. Whether he had intended to kill her the many other times he had hospitalized her and broken restraining orders was anyone’s guess.

And he did not, I believe, mean to kill her son. Our nephew. But after all, he was someone else’s child, so his life wasn’t worth much. He was, to a sociopath, a justifiable casualty.

I have ignored this weight
for seven years,
continuously planning
a new life
new ways to see you smile.
Attempting to ensure
the emptiness never beckons
never calls to you
or—at least—
that you never flirt
with joining it.

Today the weight was too much. Maybe it was the startling silence, bereft of chatter to fill the void. Maybe it was the first cool day, smelling like fall, like the new school year, and the realization that our little nephew would have been starting high school this week. Maybe I had nothing left to plan, and the weight of nearly a decade barreled down upon me, rebuking my callousness all these years.

My focus on you,
I never paused to consider
all that I lost.


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

My Mother’s Hands: A Metacarpus Legacy

I hate my mother’s hands.

I hate the way the gnarled veins weave across her tendons. The cold, rough skin stretching over the bones.

In the sun, the scars on her knuckles glint white. Each earned through countless days of digging in the earth, scrubbing floors, filling the unbalanced washing machine that shook the entire house. Pockmarks earned from tired slips grating vegetables, scraping rice from the bottom of the barrel to create some semblance of dinner for a houseful of hungry kids.

I hate the band that adorns her ring finger. I hate how the tiny diamond glimmers with a veneer of safety and comfort, shining with the ennui of a passionless but stable escape. The hope and promise it brings of a retirement she would never otherwise earn.

I hate how, at her age, her hands are still calloused from toiling through long days of physical labor. The fear that drives her to work, worried that the promise around her finger could still fall through. Like it has too many times before.

I love that her hands never struck us, but hate that they never struck back. Even when his were ruthlessly punitive.

I hate how her hands look increasingly like my grandmother’s (whose hands also never struck back). The veins larger, more purple, more obvious. The skin more cracked and wrinkled. The silent story of a woman who had never known a day of rest.

I hate that my hands look increasingly like hers, the hands she might have had. I hate that my hands lack the scars and callouses, but carry the trepidation. I hate that my hands—like my mother’s, my grandmother’s, my sister’s—never struck back.

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I hate the legacy of your hands. Generations of hands sewn together with timidity and resolve. The quiet strength of hands that never tremble as you endure multitudes, yet never clench into a fist, never rise into the air, never strike through the chaos engulfing you.

I hope your hands are soft and hard. That the skin will never callous, but your fists will be ever ready for a fight that never comes. I hope you love your hands, and that your love is the birthright gifted to you by generations of women with ugly, gnarled, timid fists.


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

I Paint You in Bubbles

Together in the bath, I paint you in bubbles. I craft bubble biceps, bubble forearms, bubble shoulders. I build bubble pecs, careful of not to touch your breasts. I ruffle on a soapy beard, but you look like Santa, it’s too full, too fake. With a capped razor, I shave your baby cheeks, scrape and shape a face I think is manly. You smile and your mustache smudges.

When I reach for the cloud between your legs, you flinch, but you don’t stop me. We work together to shape genitals. You cup together balls of suds while I stroke a bubble patch into a shaft, round it, add girth. I trim the length and you add on a bit extra. I circumcise you.

Complete, you shimmer, like an illusion of handsomeness. We sit silent, the steady fizz of evaporating bubbles between us. I look away and pick at the ingrown hairs on my legs until the water turns cold.

When I turn back it’s your familiar body again, shiny smears like scars where the bubbles had been. I meet your eyes and I see him, determined, torn.

A final island of bubbles, the deflated remains of your penis, floats between us. I take a part of it and craft a plaster over the tiny puncture mark on your thigh, the first wound. I swear I can feel the throb of testosterone beneath my fingers. You take the last of the bubbles and, in gentle strokes, place a plaster over my racing heart.


Megan Crosbie is a queer writer and occasional performer from Edinburgh, who often writes in the boundary between flash-fiction and poetry. Her writing has been published in journals such as Firewords Quarterly, Northwords Now and Litro. In her free time, she enjoys travelling, drag shows, and too many vegan donuts. You can support Megan’s work here: https://www.mcrosbie.com/

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.

Out of Water

I am a clownfish. I told Aggie this when we met and again after our mothers set us up and she tried to put me in a hot air balloon on an otherwise bland double date.

She didn’t do her research.

“Those them cute ones in the tank at the Chinese restaurant?” she’d said, mimicking some southern belle and winking.

Today, August 21, 1963, she thinks she’s done better with a canoe trip and picnic along Lake Huron. Only we’re in Ontario and she’s packed “fresh” lobster. I wonder how long she’s had it in the basket.

I wish I could have breasts like hers, I think, standing on the beach with my hands shoved deep in my corduroys while she putters around in a yellow bikini and whisks out a table cloth. We need the music from Bewitched. I’d like to try twirling a parasol right now, anything but those fishing poles and the heavy paddles. Man, I’d do anything to get my hands on a perky cross-your-heart bra. For myself.

She lays the pieces of coral crustacean out like surgical tools. I play with a tail and she’s already licking her fingers, gabbing about her friends’ engagements and her progress with tennis and angel food cakes. The sand and everything is too white.

“The girls, you know, they all think you’re a little on the feminine side, can you believe it? But me, I just say, well ladies I like a clean and tidy man. I mean I’m clean and tidy. You must like that about me.”

Under her Rita Hayworth coiffed bangs, she stares over at me before tossing her head to the side, laughing. I feel sick, catching a faint whiff of ammonia from the lobster mixed with the wet algae smell.

The sun is blistering my shoulders and there’s sand in between my molars but I can’t go anywhere because my mother’s already asking too many questions and looking too worried when she catches me with her Chatelaine. It’s just her and I, now that Dad hightailed it to Florida for another woman—the fishing capital of the world, don’t you know it—and she said she wants a new, normal life carved out of the ripples he left. I don’t know how normal can manifest in something like moving water.

Aggie doesn’t seem to mind my inaction when it comes romance. Or conversation. And I know I’m going to have to keep it up and marry this girl who fed lobster to a clownfish and thinks something like blue and pink come from separate oceans.

Maybe one day I can explain about the clownfish.


Renée Francoeur is a 28 year-old Canadian journalist. By day she writes for contractors and by night she blogs, paints nudes and writes poetry.

She won third prize for the 2016 Women Inspirational Poetry Contest. She’s also written for Standard Criteria and Squawk Back and been published in Three Line Poetry and Poetry Quarterly. She is currently working on a chapbook about the intersection of broken heartedness, rebirth and geography.

She loves coconut coffee porter, wild buffalo, striving to bring gender and minority issues to the forefront, old tombstones, baking strange recipes (kale cake anyone?) and sustainable, GMO-free agricultural endeavours.

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.