Relative – Jacinta Nandi

Whenever Lydia talks about how she was abused as a child, she says “relative.”

“My relative, who abused me,” she says.

So nobody ever knows: Was it her uncle or her stepfather or maybe an older brother or a brother-in-law? She has a million older brothers and sisters, like ten of them, something ridiculous like that, something really over the top. 

“Sometimes,” Lydia says, “I have these fantasies about how when my mum dies and my relative phones me up to plan the funeral, how I’m going to go to them, ‘Now my mum is dead, I don’t need to protect her anymore, did you think I was protecting you? You’re an idiot then, I was just protecting her. And now she’s dead, I’m gonna tell everyone what you did to me and I just totally will as well! I’m going to write books, short stories, novels, plays – I am going to write a one-woman-play about what you did to me – I am going to tell the world.’” 

“Yeah,” I say. 

It’s a nice plan. I imagine Lydia on the bus, on the phone, spitting into her phone, the words tumbling out, all the pain tumbling out, it’s a nice plan, I think. It’s good to have a plan. And it’s even better to have a nice one.

“And my relative, they’ll be so scared, yeah? And then I’ll say it, I’ll fucking say it. Maybe I’ll even go to the police. Maybe I’m gonna go to the police.”

I laugh. It’s such a beautiful sentence. Plus, I’m drunk.

“That’s a beautiful sentence,” I say. “Maybe I’m going to the police.”

“It’s a gorgeous sentence,” Lydia says.

“Yeah,” I say.

“I’m never gonna do it, I’d never do it. But just saying that sentence just once. I’d fucking love that.”

“Yeah.” 

“But not while my mum’s alive, it’d fucking kill her.”

“That’s the problem with being a survivor of childhood sex abuse,” I say. “You spend your whole life waiting for your mum to die before you can actually start properly living, it’s like being Prince Charles or someone.” 

Lydia sighs, she stands up and sits down on the sofa by the kitchen window, curls up her legs, looks out the window. She totally has this Little Women vibe going on.

“Imagine how normal we would be, how happy and normal, if we’d never been raped, never been abused. I would be so normal.” 

“We’d be so normal. We’d just lead these incredibly normal lives! We’d be able to drive,” I say, although I am not sure if this is true. I’m very bad at driving games on the X-Box, sometimes my son makes me join in with him and I end up going backwards. 

“I’d live by the sea and do ceramics,” Lydia says.

“I’d also live by the sea, but I wouldn’t do ceramics. But I would have lots of turquoise lampshades and pink candles. And I’d have cute teapots. Possibly with turtles on them? Not Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, cute ones. And I’d have lots of cushions. And I’d have a husband called Alan and we’d have two kids and I’d write kids’ books and I’d be fairly successful. I’d teach refugee teenagers English twice a week.”

Lydia yawns.

“What would your books be about?” She asks.

“Maybe a cheeky mermaid who doesn’t know any manners?” I say. “And zoo animals. And like, a lost unicorn and the adventures it has on its way back to the unicorn farm.”

“You’d probably win loads of book awards and everyone in the book industry would know who you were but you wouldn’t be totally famous. Only damaged people want to be totally famous.”

“We need more wine,” I say. I read the logo on my phone backwards: SONY i.e. YNOS i.e. WHINOS. Fuck, I think, it’s a sign! Lydia smiles sleepily, she looks like a sleepy lioness and a bit like Alicia Keys.

“No we don’t,” she says. “I got two bottles of Eierlikör in my room. I stole them from the supermarket.”

“Oh, you shouldn’t steal stuff,” I say. “We might be fucked up, but we’re not that fucked up. We’re basically coping.”

Still, I have to admit, it will be nice to drink the Eierlikör.

“If we could just meet Oprah once, we would be normal,” I say, pouring the Eierlikör Lydia hands me down my throat as quickly as possible. God, it’s delicious. It’s like drinking custard.

“If we could’ve met Princess Diana,” says Lydia. “If she hadn’t died and we had met her and she’d meet us and we could text her! It would all be fine. We wouldn’t just be normal. We’d be fucking amazing.”

I don’t say anything because I secretly think Princess Diana wouldn’t even like us that much if she hadn’t died. I think she’d think we were a bit dumpy and rubbish. But I don’t say this out loud.

“The bad news is, though,” Lydia says.

“What,” I say. I suddenly notice how drunk I am. Being drunk on Eierlikör is my favourite feeling in the world, you go fuzzy and numb and warm and it’s all so sudden.

“I think my relative’s going to die first. Before my mum does.”

“Oh,” I say.

“Yeah,” she says. “They’re ill. They’re pretty old and they’re ill. So you know what that means? I’ll never get my revenge.”

“Oh,” I say.

“Still,” she says. “I must admit. I’m looking forward to the funeral.”

“Oh,” I say.

“I’ve already bought the hat.”

I pour her some more Eierlikör.

“I have to admit. This stuff tastes even better when it’s stolen.” I say.

Okay, so we might never get our revenge, I think, but in the meantime, we can get drunk on stolen Eierlikör. And I guess it’ll do.

Jacinta Nandi was born in East London in 1980 and moved to Berlin aged 20. She writes in both German and English and has a political column in Germany’s youngest and newest feminist magazine, Missy, as well as the riotmama blog at the taz. In 2015, she published an autobiographical novel, nichts gegen blasen, with Ullstein.

 

I Ask Forgiveness – Devon Balwit Featuring Art by Laura Page

Winter Shirt
“Winter Shirt” by Laura Page

I Ask Forgiveness

My grandmother resurrects
          in flapping laundry, sheets

snapped to rectangles, then precisely
          folded. Her whites

a science of starch and bleach,
          she believed

in the household arts as daily practice,
          her love,

the perfect meeting of corners.
          Wherever she is now,

she knows I am apostate,
          all loads grey and hung

or shelved, once dry, still wrinkled.
          Bad as I am

at the task, I’m the best
          of my house.

At least for me, winter shirts open
          into caesura.

(after Laura Page “Winter Shirt”)

Devon Balwit teaches in Portland, OR. She has six chapbooks and two collections out or forthcoming. Her individual poems can be found here as well as in Cordite, The Ekphrastic Review, Poets Reading the News, Posit, and more.

Laura Page is a poet and artist from the Pacific Northwest. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Rust + Moth, Crab Creek Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal. The Rumpus, TINGE, and others. Her chapbook, epithalamium, was named the winner of Sundress Publications’ 2017 chapbook contest and is now available as an ebook. Her paintings have been featured recently in A-Minor Magazine, Long Exposure, and The Indianapolis Review.

Living Statue from 1031 Productions – Kate Salvi

1031productions2

Living Statue from 1031 Productions

 

Kate Salvi has had her photography published and exhibited both internationally and locally in her hometown of Providence, RI.  After winning the People’s Choice Award at Chabot Fine Art Gallery in Providence, she decided to expand her photo greeting card business and they are now sold in 13 shops including the Rhode Island School of Design Store.  Kate hopes to continue exhibiting worldwide.

Women Writers We Love: Ehlayna Napolitano

We have a very special interview this week with our own associate editor, Ehlayna Napolitano!  Her chapbook, penelope in the morning, was released earlier this year.  Find out a little more about Ehlayna including what inspires her, what she’s been reading lately and more!

E.Napolitano Headshot

What inspires you the most? 

What inspires me the most is the experience of personhood and the vulnerability that is necessarily attached to it. I am fortunate to have a group of friends who are joyously, beautifully, generously open and vulnerable with their emotions, their experiences, and their love. They have been a huge source of inspiration for me. Trying to figure out what being a person means, and how to do it, for myself, and attempting to give language to feelings that are not simply categorized, is what inspires me to keep going. Mostly because it’s weird! It’s weird to be a person, and sometimes I can only navigate that in poetry.

Who are your favorite women writers?

At the moment, I’ve been reading Maggie Nelson’s work, which has quickly become some of my favorite work I’ve ever read. I also really enjoyed Liz Bowen’s, “Sugarblood.” It’s hard to pick just one or two favorites, though! These are just the ones I’ve read most recently.

What does your writing process look like?  

I don’t write every day. I usually try to write at least once a week, but there are times I’ll sit down and immediately have three poems down on paper, and some days I’ll feel something start to take shape in my mind, but won’t be able to get more than a few words down. I try to let the writing come out in its own time.

What advice do you have for fellow women writers?

I don’t feel like I’m in a position to give anyone advice, so this is a tough question. I’m still figuring out what my own process is, what my voice is, what art I want to make. I’m still new to the game!

So, I suppose my advice to them would be the reminder I try to give myself when I’m writing: don’t be afraid to give all your ideas to a single piece of work. There will be more ideas, and your drive to write won’t disappear. You can lay it all out on the table and still come back to it the next day.

What are you currently working on? 

Right now, I’m trying to focus on creating more and submitting more frequently. I have a few larger project ideas that are long-term goals, but in the short-term, I’m just trying to write more and focus on improvement over anything else.

Claudette – Kate LaDew

Claudette

In 1955, nine months prior to Rosa Parks, 15 year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat on a bus. When the federal court case Browder v. Gayle, which aimed to prove state and local laws requiring bus segregation were unconstitutional, went to the Supreme Court, Colvin was the last to testify.  Three days later the Supreme Court issued an order to the state of Alabama to end bus segregation.

She remembered the little white boy her entire life.  Cutting in front of her and her mother at the general store.  Chanting ‘let me see, let me see,’  holding up his hands.  Her palms were the same color as his.  If they had taken off their shoes, the soles of their feet would be the same, too.  She noted this but didn’t dwell.  If it did not matter to him it could not matter to her.  When the other little white boys and white girls laughed, her mother turned and slapped her across the face in one motion.  ‘Don’t you know you’re not supposed to touch them?’ The little white boy’s mother agreed.

Every year, she and her mother drew outlines of their feet on brown paper bags and handed it to the white shoe salesmen.  Every year, he took the brown paper bags by their corner with his thumb and index finger, letting no other part of him touch where her mother’s thumb might have touched.  Where her index finger might have touched.  Where the sole of her foot was diagrammed like a bad luck charm.  A broken mirror, a hanging picture falling from the wall, spilling salt, opening an umbrella indoors, a cat the same color as her crossing your path.

Every year they watched from the front of the store by the window.  Waiting as the white mothers with their little white boys and little white girls all wiggled their little white toes, sliding little white feet into black patent shoes.  She and her mother waited until every white face left the store.  Waited until her mother was late for work, left to explain that this was ‘shoe day’ as the white lady her mother worked for nodded sympathetically and took two dollars from her wages.  Every year when the white shoe salesman walked out and noticed them still waiting, he slowly walked back and removed two boxes from a stack by the exit.  The shoes always fit.  That’s what her mother told her.  But the shoes always fit.

Every year the imprint of her mother’s slap grew darker.  She could see it even if no one else could.  It grew darker and spread, making her darker.  She went alone now to buy her shoes, holding out the brown paper bag to the white shoe salesman, watching as his white palms almost touched her white palms.  Almost, but not quite.  She was now darker than the brown paper bag and wondered if that was the difference.  A hanging picture falling from the wall, a black cat crossing your path.  Something dangerous.  Claudette watched and waited.  The white shoe salesman held the brown paper bag as if it were alive.  It was empty and she had a whole world inside her, but it didn’t matter.  Not now.  Not yet.

Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Art.  She resides in Graham, NC with her cats, Charlie Chaplin and Janis Joplin.