Tag: featured

Nonconformity – Nisha Bhakoo

On a boat from Langkawi to Penang
I sat next to a woman who smiled easily,
she read a novel that was “borderline-erotic”
investigating this other life with curiosity,
another mind’s fantasy.
She was exquisite and breathing
lost in the labyrinth of movement –
chasing the sublime.

I drank in her stories –
she spoke of mediocre men
who rubbed against her like hungry cats.
Interpreting her desire in shallow ways,
disclosing their sexual routines,
interrupted often by my hiccupping laugh.
She spoke of the bee stings and brutality
that she had encountered as a child.
Like it was as simple as a sneeze,
she spoke to a stranger honestly.

 

Nisha Bhakoo is a British poet and editor, living in Berlin. She is currently working on a PhD on the uncanny in contemporary poetry at Humboldt University.  Her first poetry collection, You found a beating heart, was published by The Onslaught Press in 2016. Her second poetry collection, Black & White Dream, was published in 2018 by Broken Sleep Books. 

The Secret Life of a Bedsheet – Tara Mandarano

I am the worn and well-loved bedsheet Janetta slept on for fifty-four years, before she got trapped in the bathtub one day for over twenty-four hours, and never lay on me again.

She ordered me out of one of those Sears catalogues when she got married in the early 1940s, a stunning young woman, all sharp cheekbones and inscrutable green eyes. Awash in the double glow of matrimony and the purchase of her first real home, she was drawn to my muted tones, which suited her quiet-but-pleasant personality.

I remember her talking with her stepmother before she decided on me. Asking her opinion. Janetta did that with everything. All matters to do with the house had to go through Margaret’s approval process first, before anything could be definitively decided upon.

It’s just the way Janetta was. Motherless since the age of nine, she looked to the practical older woman, her middle-aged father’s brand-new wife, for all sorts of guidance when it came to life.

Margaret was kind in a blunt, straightforward way, happy to educate her stepdaughter when it came to all things etiquette. She knew how to set a table, how to cook the perfect pot roast, and most importantly, how to fend off unwanted advances from unsavoury men.

When she saw my pretty-yet-practical pattern peeking out of the catalogue, she promptly nodded her assent.

***

I remember when Janetta’s husband started spending more time with me, refusing to get out of bed. He’d been through the war years before, and his own internal battles, as well. A shell of the man he’d once been was the version of him who eventually came home to her.

He bought her a panda that sat on their dresser. He called her “Jan” in private. He genuinely loved her. But as he got older, he suddenly stopped wanting to go out. His social anxiety and psoriasis became his whole universe, and it was hard for her to live with.

I can’t count how many of her tears seeped into me over the span of their marriage.

Sometimes his water and salt would silently roll down and plop onto me, too.

I kept all their secrets in my pleats.

By morning, though, I was always dry again. And spotless.

But bickering and stubbornness leave their invisible stains and strains, and it was clear even to me that something essential had been lost between them. A lump of bitterness grew as they tossed and turned at night. During the day, they would take to their separate quarters of the house. Him to read the newspaper in the study, her to her domain in the living room, to watch daytime TV.

No matter the mood of their marriage, however, she always washed me religiously. Every Sunday I took a tumble and was spit out, bunched up and soaking wet. Never a believer in dryers, Janetta would pin me on the line to sway happily in the breeze.

The backyard, with the combined scent of her flowers and his cigarette smoke, became my beloved second home. The rays of sun hitting the folds of my fabric felt like heaven.

***

When he was gone for good, Janetta would spend more time curled up on top of me, childlike and empty. I could tell she was lonely by the way she would just lie there, clutching one of her many teddy bears. She had an entire collection sitting on her bedroom shelves.

It was during those times of sadness that I wished I could curl my corners around her in a comforting embrace.

Instead, I would just leave lines and marks on her already-wrinkled face.

***

When she laid out her trousers and blouse on me that fateful Saturday afternoon before her bath, I never dreamed that that time would be the last.

I could hear her calling out in pain from the mint-green tub when she couldn’t get out, and then a silence descended, more frightening then her whimpers had been.

I had witnessed so much of her life being a part of her bed, but I could not see the beginning of her end.

Eventually the firemen broke down the front door and rescued her, but she slept on the couch that night after her grown children eventually left.

I was suddenly and irrevocably bereft.

***

The next morning, Janetta would go to the hospital and never return home. Weeks later, her daughter would wonder out loud at her formal clothes laid out on the bed, and weep as she put them away for donation.

As he cleared out the house, room by room, her son would dutifully strip me off the mattress and toss me carelessly into a black garbage bag, as if I was worthless.

It was only when one of Janetta’s granddaughters came to look through the house for keepsakes that I dared let myself hope. When her fingers fumbled across me underneath some old, frayed pillowcases, my heart leapt.

I could tell she was looking for some mementoes and sentimental things to remember her grandmother by. As I lay there, all folded in on myself in sorrow, I saw her go to the kitchen, and I thought my chance at salvation gone.

When she came back a minute later with a pair of scissors, I was puzzled at first. Then she proceeded to cut out a square and put a patch of me in her pocket.

All I could think was that a part of me had survived, when Janetta and her husband had not.

***

Now I spend my days pinned to a crowded bulletin board in the granddaughter’s sunlit den. Faded by time, I am tacked up beside an old black-and-white photo of Janetta and Alfred as they strolled down Yonge Street in the 1940s. Glamorous and gorgeous, they are frozen in a frame, a forever way back when. And me? I am content, grateful to be close enough to brush up against their edges once again.

 

Tara Mandarano is a writer, editor, and copyeditor based in Canada. She balances life with a tyrannical toddler by consistently reading past her bedtime. Her work has also been published on Canadian Living, The Huffington Post, The Sunlight Press, Mogul, Mothers Always Write, Thought Catalog and Mamalode. Please visit taramandarano.com to see more of her writing or follow her on Instagram @taramandarano.

2 Poems – Stevie Lynn

Habits 

the women in my family have never been regular. 
blood comes out in heavy blankets or not at all. 
whenever i sleep with men, whenever i am fucked, 
my blood comes seeping through the blankets as 
if my femininity has been cracked open 
and it’s begging to nurture someone.

the women in my family have a habit of disappearing 
when they take names that don’t belong to them, 
they become wives. 

i close my eyes and imagine a future in which 
i am alone in the woods, on my knees praying. 
i have eaten dirt for men.  
i have become like the women in my family, almost
disappearing through a hole in the system. 

the blood comes gushing out of me, heavy 
and it smells like death. down my thighs it 
slides, landing in the grass, i will leave this 
world as i came into it—silent. 

 

Rumors Hint at Winter 

Your spine curved inward like wind howling through the house. Watch how his limbs move, how my lips never quite say the words I want to scream. Doors I never want to shut will slam against me causing me to spiral. I eat your words like gold confetti falling from a ceiling. I crave a light that can be eaten and that weighs down the stomach like stones in the pocket of a river. I brand myself with fingers that open up my mouth and reach in to catch my tongue. I’m so silent I scare people. I scare lovers with my silence. I scared my mother when I was born with my silence. Nurses reassuring her that I was just looking around. Decay is the moth I watch fly closer to the light because I want to see it die. I read an article about women who date emotionally unavailable men. You subconsciously don’t want to be involved with anyone. I diagnosed myself this morning. I can remember how you pulled me up from the couch, gentle as the spider web wraps around me, sheets of white casting you as the savior. I remember that I am never the savior. 

Stevie Lynn has previously been published on the Feminist Wire, “When you Renounced the Catholic Church (or sex with you)” and on the Fem Lit Mag, “Devil’s Tower.” She has also published poetry in the University of Vermont’s literary journal: Vantage Point. She is currently working at Tennessee State University. 

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash