To the government (or whoever masturbates to my mail),

by Anonymous

Words are omnipresent, they are dictators of a population. The Mandate of Heaven, Constitution, Communist Manifesto, Magna Carta have provided a historical lineage of political leaders owning the spirit of the masses. Doomsday preachers on Houston, children in the rural villages of Yunnan, even the great grandchildren of John F Kennedy all recite the prayers of such statuesque and now nameless leaders (do you know who drafted the Treaty of Westphalia?). I, for one, admit I have remained trapped in this genealogy. In fact, a portrait of George Washington officiated my marriage, he watched me sign off on the government’s possession of our every thought. Now I insist on enacting my revenge.

Here are my demands:

1.

Fuck me
Fuck me every singe day, even when I’m crying
Especially when I’m crying.
Use my tears as lube and fuck me
until I start crying again

2.

Chant my name, the name of my hermit crab, street name, grandfather, middle school science teacher whose toad like eyes remain repressed in my vision
Chant like you believe that Franco existed outside of the Iberian
Chant until the words you shriek are a generation’s doctrine
Chant until each little red book is worshipped in chapels, mosques, schoolyards
Chant until declarations outlive the image, until Mao is not just an Andy Warhol portrait
But a secular god
Chant until Mount Rushmore is Olympus
Chant until your esophagus fractures, collapses
Chant until it’s just sounds, a yodel through your teeth
Chant until even Roosevelt gets hard

3.

Open each door you come across
Before I pass,
Kitchen cabinets, cars, chests, books
All doors must remain unhinged.
I want my face to smash into all open doors, shins bruised battered, A/C units
Plummeting from your open windows
Keep them open
Wide enough to free each syllable
Sentences mean nothing
Unless they’re open
Open high enough
Open low enough
To where my blood and the words commingle
Form an unmovable mass that keeps the doors open

4.

Clean your hands before you touch me
Please God
Not with Mississippi tap,
No holy water
No mountain, snow, valley, river, glacier, sleet, rain, acid
Cleanse your hands with the creek water
By our house
And If the water runs dry
Wade in the dirt
Wait until the creek flows
Sit in the stars
Expect the creek to flow it always does
Rub your hands until they’re raw
Only then can you touch my skin, hair, toes
I want you to steal my words with your pristine hands
Translate your touch into writing
Into a notarized pledge
Feel my theories
Letting only creek water drop on my brow
Letting only the flow of each sediment build upon my mantras

5.

Read my thoughts
Repeat biased opinions back at me
Back to back
Create a dictionary of my images
Speak my transgressions
Regardless of my apologies
Wait for the moment
Wait for the anxiety before our first kiss
Wait for me to blackout, unfettered and filled with a Stalinist rage
Wait until I’m so emotionally exhausted from carrying the limp body of my desire that
I can hardly rise
Then pounce on my words
Vomit these phrases back onto my shoulder, pour units of language down my tank top
Fill my boxers
Briefly
With the constitutional doctrine of my love for you

6.

Marry my tongue, feel the saliva
Drip down your throat
Think of it when you’re showering
When your fingers
Have touched what I own
Rather
What my words own
And
When you start cumming in the shower
Think of your vow
The transcendent paper certificate
Your commitment to my legalistic possession of you
What is our love without a judicial signature
Without a vocal claim, our relationship is merely a transition phase
A waiting game
Where this social contract
Is purely carnal
So when the cum starts dripping down your leg in our shower
Don’t think of my face, not the minute details of my hip bones
Revive the promises
Wordy affirmations of power
Remember the documentation trapped in the fourth floor of city hall
The verbal agreement I’ve shoved down your throat each night since
Retain that spit for it is no longer mine

7.

Kill me when it’s time
Publish my diaries for I want to live forever

Is this not how you expected me to build a nation?
A family only exists with demands
Words piling on each other
Fulfilling the primal urge to exist infinitely
When you meet my demands
I no longer exist
Just words
But my words are what’s always been
Where would Russia have been without Lenin
Yet
There was no Lenin
Simply words
Sufficient to rally a population
Peace, land, and the orgasmic desire to remain submissive
The toe-curling, eye-rolling, leg-shaking gratification for oppressive language
Terror and words are codependent
If no-one died this wouldn’t exist
And so I demand you to follow them
But do you really have a choice?

Lemons

Jordan Rosenberg

I like the way he cuts lemons. He does it the long way, vertically, delicately, cradling the fruit in his fingertips as he places his weapon.

I watch him do it, an arm dangled over the back of my chair. His knife, my knife (as we are in my kitchen) struggles for a moment at the lemon’s thick peel.

Bracing himself, he thrusts inward, piercing the skin and then he’s gliding through. The pulp and flesh splatter and the lemon concedes, falling open in two on the countertop.

It’s clever, I think, that he cuts it like that. Vertically, to make wedges, so it’s easier to squeeze, he says. Easier to bleed the citrus into tonight’s cocktails or pasta this way.

epilogue:

he squeezes lemons into my mouth
i am laying on the ground, hands bound, and he
squeezes lemons into my mouth
the juices splash and i catch droplets on my tongue
they burn and warm my body
as he drops fire inside me

I Imagine Carrying a Child

by Ivy Lockhart

And in my imagination
I’m very slim
except for my stomach
bloated with a wee parasite
kicking and stretching
somebody new
softer
my spine will have curled
the fat that perks
my cheeks will drop
sag and crease.

You tell me
(with some small triumph)
I’ll be sort of ugly then
Since I won’t have moisturized
(like you tell me to)
I refuse to eat my vegetables too,
the greens and roots you like
I refuse to take my vitamins,
I refuse to maintain my figure.
I won’t hydrate
I’ll take up cigarettes.

I remember once a softish-nipply
blobbish person caring for me
with big-salty-fat
juicy-yummy tears rumbling
to my open baiting tongue
liiiiike mmmhmm
delicious
swaddled in a big-black blanket
secure-unconditional ease
limbs tied down
and I liiiiiiiiike it
I am nothing and
teeny-tiny and itty-bitty and pretty
my imaginary feet
are in my imaginary mouth
they are mmmmmmm
ooooOOOoo
delicious!

the garden you grew for me

by Jonathan Ramirez

i swore we would never fall out of love. saturdays, when we
wrapped ourselves in conversations about our future, were only
a reminder of how lucky we were to have found each other.
we became what we needed, until we didn’t.
summer skies found their way into your house,
and we were left with rain, texas heat, and many regrets.
nothing turned out the way we wanted it to.
we imagined different blue skies…

but i remember during lunch hour,
when we danced to the rumours and blamed others for our actions,
the garden you grew for me, roses blooming all year long.
we watched it flourish,
unaware of the clouds roaring across the sky,
watering our roots, feeding our growth, leading us to separate directions…

but i promise,
i will always hold my hands out for the roses you throw at me. to catch
the petals. to forget the bitter. for the mistakes that were made in the name of rage,
and the tender moments we let fade away.
all that we needed was each other, until we didn’t.
and now we stand on our own, in different corners of the world
ready to explore conversations we couldn’t afford.

Stardust Soul

by Meghan Davis

Hovering nearer time and again
Iced planets spiraling around each other
rotating about separate axes
Steady gazes remaining tethered
peripheral to the parallel trajectory
carved out beside them

An alluring, inconceivable glimpse spurs
ceremonious slowing of elliptic orbits
Reversing direction, beginning to align
Timidly drawing warmer

Until gravity overwhelms hesitation
and celestial bodies collide
in an earth-shattering explosion
Sending shockwaves across silent plains
Melded afterglow burning up
remnants of endured solitude
Piercing once empty darkness
with freckled light

Nightlight

by Casey Weaver

OLIVIA: 18, she/they, Chinese-American, founder of GSA at their middle school, total flirt, has flouncy hair barely contained by little clips at the crown of her head

INEZ: 18, she/her, second generation Venezuelan-American, goofy, nerdy, often overthinking, oldest sibling in busy house with cousins and grandparents

Setting: a cool Saturday night in July at an intimate concert venue.

At rise, Olivia and Inez are on their second date. Olivia fits in perfectly with the other concert-goers, in their hippie dippie flowing dress and platform boots. Inez, still experimenting with her style, wears a frog-patterned button-up with the buttons slightly askew. They stand a foot apart, towards the back of the venue, under softly strobing lights. They sway.

 

OLIVIA: I love this song.

INEZ: What?

OLIVIA: I said I love this song.

                     Inez nods slightly, an awkwardly cordial smile in response, not engaging.

OLIVIA (cont.): (affectionate, empathetic) Are you having a good time?

INEZ: Yes. Sorry. I – I couldn’t hear what you said earlier. And then it was like one of those moments where I already looked confused, and, so I just…

Inez takes a deep breath and giggles awkwardly.

INEZ (cont.): I’m having a good time.

OLIVIA: (smiling knowingly) I’m glad.

INEZ: Yeah, I mean, the last concert I went to was my cousin’s rap debut in my grandma’s basement.

OLIVIA: Wow, I didn’t realize the bar was so high. I don’t know if this can compare.

INEZ: Oh yeah, he’s on Soundcloud, so…

                     They both laugh, moving an inch closer.

INEZ (cont.): I actually, uh, did the lights for his performance.

OLIVIA: (impressed) Really?

INEZ: Oh yeah, I had to practice with him for like two days. He made me put a sign on the door with a seizure warning.

OLIVIA: Yikes, pretty intense.

INEZ: Yeah, I don’t really think we were in any danger of that, though. Probably just jacked up my grandma’s electric bill.

OLIVIA: In any case, you seem to be a woman of many talents.

INEZ: Oh yeah, I got the whole, like, (she mimes flicking a light switch) thing going.

OLIVIA: So what I’m hearing is you should be backstage right now.

INEZ: Hah, I don’t know if I could handle that. It’s, like, blinding. I can barely see you.

OLIVIA: (beat, quietly) I’m here.

They move closer, fingertips stretching to meet. Knuckles brush softly, lingering.

They pull away.

INEZ and OLIVIA: Sorry.

INEZ: I didn’t mean to, uh…

OLIVIA: Yeah, I think that kid bumped into me. The lights, you know…

INEZ: Yeah, no one can see.

OLIVIA: No one can see.

                     Beat. They listen for a while. Deep bass thumps like a heartbeat, lurking below 

faded piano rhythms pierced gingerly by yearning vocals.

OLIVIA (cont.): How does she sing like that? My vocal chords are screaming just imagining it.

INEZ: I read somewhere that she does it like that on purpose. She records everything in her bedroom, right when she wakes up, sitting on the floor… 

OLIVIA: (chuckling incredulously) And how do you know this?!?

INEZ: (biting her nail) Oh, ahha, I, uh,… she’s kind of my idol to be honest. I didn’t wanna make a big deal, but seeing her perform is sort of all I’ve ever wanted.

OLIVIA: (slight pause) I had no idea. (smirking coyly) Didn’t realize I was on a date with a diehard fan. So nooooow you have to give me all the insider info.

INEZ: What do you wanna know?

OLIVIA: (looking at the stage, captivated) It’s like her voice is coursing through my veins. How can she make me feel so safe?

INEZ: I think it’s everything. It’s her, and it’s you… Sometimes I feel like she anagrammed my diary into these lyrics.

Olivia laughs quietly.

OLIVIA: It sounds like a lullaby.

Inez hums along lightly.

OLIVIA (cont.): It’s just like something my mom used to sing. Did your parents ever sing to you?

Inez thinks for a minute.

INEZ: Not too much. We read a lot of books at night. Old stuff from when my dad was a kid that bored me to sleep. But I always woke up the second he left my room. The stairs would creak.

Beat.

INEZ (cont.): I guess it was sort of like singing, hearing him read. What songs did your mom sing?

OLIVIA: Everything, it seemed. It always felt the same, though.

                     Olivia takes a moment, lost in memory.

OLIVIA (cont.): She would sit at the edge of my bed and sing as I fell asleep, and then she’d sing in the doorway, and then she’d keep singing as she walked down the hall just to make sure I didn’t wake up. I never really wanted to go to sleep, though. I could’ve listened to her singing forever.

                     Olivia and Inez each close their eyes.

OLIVIA: It’s like I’m six years old again.

INEZ: I can hear the stairs creak.

The music slows. Inez and Olivia take a few beats to close the gap between them. Upper arms pressed together, they find each other. Softly, silently, they hold hands.

OLVIA: (whispering) I wear a lot of rings. Sorry.

INEZ: (whispering) Oh, no, they’re nice. Or I think they are. I can’t really see them, um––

OLIVIA: They can get in the way, sometimes.

INEZ: I like them. It lets me know it’s you.

Foggy strobes of blue and purple wash over them. Inez and Olivia laugh and dance, liberated in the shadows.

Too quickly, the set is finished, the audience is thanked. Suddenly, the lights come up. Magenta darkness is replaced with bright white-gold. Olivia and Inez separate, fingers untangling faster than thunder follows lightning.

They exit the venue. The city glows.

OLIVIA: How does it feel? Finally seeing your idol perform?

INEZ: Incredible. Everything about it. The music, the lights… I could’ve stayed there forever.

OLIVIA: I would if I could.

INEZ: Would you ever wanna perform there?

OLIVIA: Are you kidding? People were crying at that performance. I could never do that.

INEZ: Come on, I’ve heard you play.

OLIVIA: Yeah, in like the eighth grade orchestra concert.

INEZ: (smiling, mind adrift with the idea of Olivia onstage) I can imagine you up there.

OLIVIA: Just me and my violin? I bet your Soundcloud rapper cousin would get more of a crowd than I could.

INEZ: Well, as long as you get someone to come other than my grandma, you’d have him beat. 

OLIVIA: (more vulnerable than we’ve seen her before) Would you watch me play?

INEZ: I would do the lights for you.

                     Inez mimes the light-switch flicking again, stopping to face Olivia.

OLIVIA: So no one can see.

INEZ: Just us.

Olivia and Inez slowly brush their fingers together, finally grasping each other’s hands. Olivia slowly closes her eyes, imagining her violin resting on her shoulder and the delicate weight of the bow in her fingertips.

OLIVIA: Can you hear it?

INEZ: Like a lullaby.

Blackout.

Ironía venenosa

by Evan Zigmond

De verdad, sabía que el mundo iba a caer en caos por algunos años, y aunque muchas personas no pueden elegir el momento exacto que se le dieron cuenta, esta memoria queda en mi mente — la empieza del fin de la civilización.

 El año: 2017. Estaba en Facebook cuando vi un anuncio para Lunchables, una merienda dirigida a los jóvenes. El producto exacto se llamaba Lunchables Walking Taco. Afortunadamente, no refiere a ningún tipo de taco sensible que camina, sino taco portable (los tacos sensibles no llegaron hasta 2032). La capcion: “Wow! Delicious! Radical! Lunchables Walking Taco is totally cool.” Eso marcó el comienzo del fin. 

Al tiempo me encantaba el anuncio por su ironía sutil. Pensaba que Lunchables había subido los tropos del mundo publicitario. En realidad la ironía se convirtió en un tropo nuevo, no solo de los anuncios sino en el mundo cotidiano. La ironía se volvió más y más popular al fin de los 2010s, cuando la gente descubrió que funcionaba muy bien en lograr un video viral – Incluso yo, que quería conseguir la fama por internet más que todo. Estaba en la calle grabando un video chistoso cuando un coche me pegó y morí por primera vez. 

Me sorprendí cuando llegue a la imagen exacta del paraíso que tiene los Cristianos: las puertas nacaradas sostenidas por las nubes. Casi manché yo mismo cuando oí la voz de dios: “jajaja nadie te dijo no caminar en la calle cabron?”

Estaba un poco harto; ¿quién habla así? Ya había morido de un coche ese día, y dios estaba añadiendo el insulto a las lesiones, literalmente. Aparte de eso, estaba harto por morirse; no es muy divertido en sí. Pregunté a dios “porque tenía que morirse a causa de la ironía específicamente?” Y Dios me contestaba:

“Tu no has morido por la ironía, la ironía le ha matado.”

“Que?” 

“Tu entendimiento de causa y efecto es al revés. La ironía existe ante ti, y existirá después de ti. La ironía existe fuera del tiempo lineal; se está manifestando en tu mundo después de milenios de preparación necesaria (lenguaje, connotación, etc.). Entonces, durante su vida, tu no utilizaba la ironía. La ironía utilizaba a ti, como vehículo, y queda más y más fuerte cada día.

“Bueno, por lo menos puedo descansar aquí en el paraíso, lejos de todas estas malvadas.”

Dios chequeó algunos papeles en la mano. “Es irónico que tú lo dices; mis papeles dicen que vas al infierno” y con un chasquido me desperté en el medio de la calle. 

La persona que me pegó con el coche salió y me miró, pero en vez de hablar, empieza a hacer algunos Fortnite Dances (un baile popular del videojuego nombrado), pintada aquí:

Regresé a mi casa para descubrir que mis padres solamente hablaban en bromas y referencias populares. Traté de abrazar a mi madre pero ella me dijo “whoa bro that’s kinda sus” y también hice los Fortnite Dances en mi cara. 

Desde ese punto gradualmente he perdido mi control del lenguaje también; la ironía trabaja como veneno. Las palabras pierden sus significados originales hasta que sea imposible comunicar sinceramente. Lo que permanece es una corriente de referencias desconectadas: Britney Spears, NASCAR, Cody Ko, ‘Ridiculousness’ with Rob Dyrdek. “Wow! Delicious! Radical! Lunchables Walking Taco is totally cool.” 

FIN