Polar Bodies – Sydney Sheltz-Kempf

Polar Bodies

As I’ve matured into a clone of you
I’ve always wondered
how I didn’t end up as a polar body
since we’ve always been
polar opposites.

Sydney Sheltz-Kempf is a current PhD candidate at Western Michigan University in Biological Sciences.  Her previous work can be found in Intima: Journal of Narrative Medicine and The Scene and Heard.  Her first chapbook titled Adding Up Forever: A Memoir will be published by The Poet’s Haven in Fall 2018.

Whale Songs at 52 Hertz – Lauren Scharhag

Whale Songs at 52 Hertz

 

Once, a scientist heard the voice of a whale so singular

that he became obsessed, a benevolent Ahab.

He named the whale 52 for the unusual frequency of its song,

a frequency unable to be heard by fin, humpback, or blue.

The scientist recorded its calls through the trackless Pacific,

a voice rising from unknowable fathoms,

capable of carrying for thousands of miles through

brine and wave and coral grove.

For twelve years, the scientist searched and chased and dreamed

of this mysterious creature. Unable even to determine its sex,

he could only surmise it was doomed to solitude,

for so strange was its call, it might as well be mute,

or all the other whales of the sea be deaf,

incapable of being heard or understood.

Other scientists agree to disagree about its very existence,

its uniqueness, and whether or not it truly feels lonely.

Twelve years of listening, twelve years of searching,

twelve years of never even glimpsing tail, blowhole exhalations,

or ridge of spine. And no matter how many may sail together,

no one knows loneliness like men at sea,

bereft of our ancestral dust.

No one knows loneliness like one who seeks,

combing the world’s largest ocean for a single beast.

The man dies and the song fades, undefined.

Lauren Scharhag is an award-winning writer of fiction and poetry. She lives on Florida’s Emerald Coast. To learn more about her work, visit www.laurenscharhag.blogspot.com.

That sounds like a disease – Ann Gibaldi Campbell

“That sounds like a disease,”

you say when I say
I want to go
to coastal Louisiana to see
the nutria.

I know they are semi-
aquatic rodents.
And I have
a better mind than you.

No!
They are not giant swamp rats.
I did not see
If the doctor was wearing
a wedding ring.
And I do not care
you have the hands of a 90-year-old.

Are you taking any medicine?
Are you taking anything at all?

I will want a bathing suit
good health
compassion
when I go to Grand Isle
to see the swimming of the nutria.

Ann Gibaldi Campbell holds a PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she wrote her dissertation on Virginia Woolf. She identifies as a teacher, a mother, and a feminist. With poetry, she hopes to reinvent herself.

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.