Strangers Feel Welcome in My House – Andrea Jefferson

I meet them at gas stations, grocery stores, even Facebook. They ask interests they won’t remember if they ever see me again. They come to my weekend job and ogle my skin while I bag their groceries. When I tell the stories, others that weren’t in my body at the times I talk about think I’m on an ego trip. My ego feeds off acceptance from a father I never knew how to please, off my paintings that blend just so. It doesn’t feed off men that want to come in my house and track water in because “raincoats just don’t feel the same.” 

They feel entitled to just walking in without bothering to ring the doorbell because no one taught them the importance of that doorbell. They probably wouldn’t even know what to do once inside but stomp themselves to lethargy and then ask if my house liked the shakes. My house probably wouldn’t budge. 

Even when I insist there’s already a tenant (sometimes one I’ve fabricated so the issue will drop, rarely one that really resides there), they say he isn’t nearby, that he’s a fool for letting me drag my lawn fixings around without him. The bolder ones say he’s so lucky he gets to water my lawn and eat at my table. It makes me wish my grass was dead so they’d stop asking to come in. 

It makes me lock my doors for weeks at a time, never venturing out past necessity because the strangers will want to follow me. I do everything possible to prevent break-ins, but deep down I know if someone wanted to break in, they’d find an entrance. Even deeper down, I know I’d be blamed for not somehow having unbreakable windows and a pitbull and a fucking dome. 

They say I’ve had people over before, so why not them as if dinner invitations are hand-me-down sweaters. I’m tired of explaining why they’re not welcome. I don’t know what’s scarier: their confusion or their anger. I just know strange men shouldn’t feel entitled to be inside my walls, inside me. 

Andrea Jefferson‘s work has appeared in Eunoia Review, trampset, littledeathlit, Bridge, and others. Find the author on Twitter @honeydreee.

 

Loopholes – Katie King

Yesterday I went to a man because I could because I could

He made soup in the kitchen with lemongrass and molasses and kept bringing me Chinese soup spoons and telling me to smell and to taste and to taste and to smell and I did because I could because I could. I told him I smell more of your hands with 3 turquoise rings than that lemongrass so he put it on the table for me instead. Isolated.

I halved his cherry tomatoes as he asked how the kid liked school I said fine just fine. I said you know I’ve written two poems about you and he said yeah? Here’s a song about you and dragged his hands across the organ and back. 

His roommate watched us watching the soup and hanging clothes on the line and said enjoy your soup and I said I haven’t been invited to eat it and he said she’s right it’s not for her it will be hours before it is ready then he asked me if I wanted him to be romantic and I rolled my eyes and started taking off his belt and he said the rap music in the kitchen was for getting in the mood and you don’t actually have to take it off through the loops you can just unbuckle it and it will save me some time when I put my pants back on and I said but that’s the whole thing for me and my birth control phone alarm went off and I was late for acupuncture but I wasn’t thinking about my wrist and that was worth it. 

He said come on now finish this job and I said you were the one who cooked soup for an hour when I got here and he said yeah you’re right.

Katie King does her best writing at golden hour in front of the window wearing nothing but a bra and earrings as the Canada geese fly past. She has been published in such places as Telepoem Booth, Nude Bruce Review, Thin Air Magazine and at 8 years old, Highlights Magazine. 

You can find her on Facebook here.

 

Arab Spring in Berlin – Rebecca Ruth Gould

Arab Spring in Berlin

I turned down the offer of a dowry
& we hitched a ride to the airport 

at twilight from Damascus to Berlin, 
to start a new life. 

Syria started burning soon after we arrived.
First, the revolution in Egypt had to be televised.

We made love on the balcony overlooking Tiergarten
as CNN live streamed the revolution.

I was full, dreaming of the castles we would build.
Every light in the skyline was a votive candle

& then I was overtaken with fear of pregnancy, 
worrying that my hasty longing

had brought new life into the world.
Crimson trickles broke the terror—

I bled the everyday blood we (women) shed—
the reassurance that life continues 

even when death prevails—
while the shahids were martyred on Tahrir Square.

When I waved goodbye to you in the U-Bahn,
the station’s cement blending with the night,

I felt like those revolutionary fools 
who cast fear aside 

because they believed that it was right, 
opening my arms to the world.

 

Rebecca Ruth Gould is the author of Cityscapes (Alien Buddha Press, 2019), and Writers and Rebels (Yale University Press, 2016). She is the translator of High Tide of the Eyes (The Operating System, 2019), After Tomorrow the Days Disappear (Northwestern University Press, 2016), and Prose of the Mountains (CEU Press, 2015). 

 

Two Poems – Holly Day

What There Is to Lose

I pretend to be content with our conversations
because I still like having sex with him
and I am afraid that, even after all these years
that if I don’t keep him talking
don’t act interested in what he’s saying
he might decide to leave. Even after sleeping beside him 
for more than a decade
I’m afraid that if I don’t hang on every word he says
nod approvingly at all the right moments
in his ramblings about cars and work 

and the driving conditions to and from work
that he’ll decide I’m also not very interesting
wonder why he’s sitting next to me at all.

Some days, I’m afraid to even let him go outside
in case he runs into the woman he’s supposed to be with
the one who finds all these musings on 
back spasms and diarrhea attacks, 
his problems with his mother
his problems with my mother
all the ways you can use Chinese pepper salt to enhance your cooking
completely fascinating and absorbing and yes
I know she is somewhere out there

waiting in the mismatched groves of birch and pine outside our home 
hungering for what I will never let her have.

April

You wake me up to tell me 
that the snow has come back
that the garden outside is completely 
obscured in white. You say it much too loud 
for this sort of news
for this early in the morning, almost joyful.

Half-asleep, the resentful part of me believes 
perhaps you are responsible for the snow.

I drag myself out of bed and call the dog
who comes, joyful at the prospect of a morning walk.
I put on her leash and we step outside
into a world buried in white snow
the tips of new tulips, the green sprays of crocus
already shriveling and darkening in the cold.

Holly Day’s newest poetry collections are In This Place She Is Her Own, A Wall to Protect Your Eyes, Folios of Dried Flowers and Pressed Birds, Where We Went Wrong, and  Into the Cracks.

 

Candy Bowl Compassion – Hemalatha Venkataraman

My therapist told me I need to be more kind
to myself-
to take care of myself first,
asked me to pick up a laser-cut wooden heart
from what used to be a comfort candy bowl.
Imagine ‘compassion’ written on it, she said.
                                                                   I did;
ran my fingers along the burnt albeit smooth
curves of its brown body,
sat it on the insides of my palm-
                                     looked up
told her
to let me know if she needs help making more of these hearts.
You don’t have to order them from China, I said.
I have access to laser-cutters
over at the Department of Art.

Hemalatha Venkataraman is a poet and artist from Madras, India. Her poetry nests in the tangible to make sense of the intangible, with a focus on personal growth and immigration. Her latest publication can be found in the book of curated poems, I’ll Be Here When You Get There.

You can also find her on Instagram at @Hemuvenkat.