Post-Election Song of Myself

by Cynthia Dewi Oka
Appears in Issue 6 of The Blueshift Journal (theblueshiftjournal.com).

Time walked across the street called midnight.

It left us standing in a forest of pundits and their fluorescent fruit.

Still, it was dim. As water in the bowels of the city, as the impression that I had been here before,

looking over this fear in the shape of a red pudding, trembling at the fork’s slightest gesture.

What good is the fork when hunger is gone?

There is no secret to resurrection buried under the wood. I know I am forcing the opposite of

song to sing.

Does it ever miss us – time, I mean? As it strides into the fire-worked night, the crowds pale with

clenching their fists.

A predator has been elected president.

Strangely, his orange hue reminds me of hope. In the sense that as a child I used to swallow

orange seeds to transform my body into a tree.

Because in place of roots, a displaced people have nerves sparkling with rings far too small for

our fingers.

Binders of laminated identity, and mothballs to seduce time into staying a little while longer.

Does it ever miss us – hung here like lanterns over the monstrous body of love?

I was seven when I tried to pee standing up without a penis. The piss ran hot down my legs, and I knew I had failed.

The latch was rusted shut. In the ditch under the toilet seat, mosquitos bred their empire.

I banged on the door, screaming, “Papa! Papa!” though I knew he would beat me afterward for

trying to escape my body.

This is how I think about race in America. That banging,

because we do not want to die.

A white supremacist has been elected president, and I keep

thinking about the bullets hugged by my friends’ brains, and my father, skin smooth as teeth,

under a thin hospital blanket.

How he drew that last breath and everything behind it:

the buses stained with chicken shit, the ghosts in the rafters who stole his hair
and the combs for his remaining hair,
my mother’s feet black with dried blood,
and everything he was willing to kill in himself

to be here, and hated

in a new way. How that breath raged

inside him, and how I stood at the closed door of his life, with no hammer, no key.

I never did grow leaves, and roots to me sound like Questlove saying, “Time will tell…Time

never stops telling,” which is another way of saying time will not come back to save us,

the body is not a thing to escape.

Here is mine. It is soft and hard at once. It pees sitting down. Sometimes it can exhale a poem

out of the most poisoned air.

It would eat the rusted latch before it gives in.


Cynthia Dewi Oka is a poet, mother, and author of Nomad of Salt and Hard Water (Thread Makes Blanket, 2016). A two-time Pushcart Prize Nominee, her poems have appeared online and in print, including in Guernica, Black Renaissance Noire, Painted Bride Quarterly, Dusie, The Wide Shore, The Collapsar, Apogee, Kweli, As Us Journal, Obsidian, and Terrain.org. She is also a contributor to the anthologies Read Women (Locked Horn Press, 2014), Dismantle (Thread Makes Blanket, 2014), and Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines (PM Press, 2016). Cynthia has been awarded the Fifth Wednesday Journal Editor’s Prize in Poetry, scholarships from the Voices of Our Nations (VONA) Writing Workshop and Vermont Studio Center, and the Art and Change Grant from Leeway Foundation. An immigrant from Bali, Indonesia, she is based in South Jersey/Philly. Her second book of poems is forthcoming in 2017 from Northwestern University Press.

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Hands On

by Amanda Stovicek

Having her hands on the attacker’s face

it became impossible to hurt

 

the supple bending of skin baby-soft

or lamb’s ear cotton in her palms.

 

Not to tear or maim but to feel the pulse

underneath his body’s covering. Not to run

 

even as the attacker tore safety away like a river

tearing its bank. Her body as that crumbling,

 

finally noticing the river, closer than before.

The attacker wanting to drown in the river

 

to become a prism for her body. Always the river

was a part of her body, grabbing more dirt and flesh.

 

She rubbed it from the corners of her mouth

and held no shape. The attacker grew gills and swam away.

 

By morning she transformed into a small deer

who anyone could put their hands on.


Amanda Stovicek is a writer and teaching artist from Northeast Ohio.  She works to bring poetry to various public audiences, including local hospitals, schools, and detention centers.  She is the co-founder and editor of Voices of Dan Street, an online journal that showcases the work of students at the Summit County Juvenile Detention Center. Amanda is finishing her MFA in Poetry in the NEOMFA Program. Her work has appeared in Rubbertop ReviewThe New Old StockJenny Magazine, and Calliope.

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The Fourth of July

by Sarah Duncan

I told you I wanted to know
what our flag is and you said it was
all hero, a kind of soft night
light in the hallway
so you can make it
to the bathroom without falling,
you said it was a quilt, wrapped
around mountains and snow drifts,
sleeving the arms of trees,
like purple, like mountain, like majesty,
you said it’s a taut man
in green with a barrel in his
hands the shape of freedom,
you said it’s our name, child,
your hands, your feet, and you
told me to touch it
so I gathered in my fingers
a piece of cloth, red-wet,
blood-dry, heavy with the sound
of last words from brown mouths


Sarah Duncan currently lives in Laramie, Wyoming, where she’s getting her MFA in creative writing. She is a queer multidisciplinary writer, performer, educator, troublemaker, and community organizer with SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) Wyoming and Laramie for Black Lives. Her poetry has been published by Pelorus Press, Ghost House Review, nin poetry Journal, Souvenir Lit Journal and the anthology States of the Union (forthcoming); her plays have been produced by Sanguine Theatre Company in NYC.

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Survival Practice

by Jasper Wirtshafter

I know how to start a fire
how to build shelter from sticks and leaves
and how to make love after being raped

I know how to run a 10k
how to cook on an open fire with a steel grate
how to purify water

I know how to navigate the wood and city streets
how to ask a stranger fro help
how to travel light

I know how to file taxes and fill out spreadsheets
how to survive in a world that values my spreadsheets more than my survival skills
values my livelihood more than my life

I know how to survive another comedy show where a body like mine is the punchline
how to survive another horror story where a body like mine is the boogie man
how to survive another news clip where a body like mine is just another freak in a body bag

I know how to administer intramuscular testosterone shots
how to talk someone down from suicide
how to hide pills from myself

I know how to act in a crisis
how to watch my back
how to cope when watching my back isn’t enough

I know because I’ve had to learn
despite every way they say people like me are weak
we are practiced in the habit of surviving

I know we fought so good we made cliche the phrase “it gets better”
soon it will be worse than I have been alive to remember
but

I know queer culture was built from what AIDS left behind
we have survived before
we have survival practice


Jasper Wirtshafter is from Athens Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. He has been writing and performing spoken word poetry for four years.

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I Come from No Man’s Rib

by Brittani Rable

I come from soil
beneath hollow trees,

        from ore
        fissured
        in dewy cavern walls.

I come from the sky—
rain evaporated

        from glaciers
        that bit the earth
        and birthed rivers,

that kept their hearts
solid and dared
anyone to tell them
that they came

        from a page,
        that they came
        in one day.

I come from
stardust
and sulfur,

        from the collision
        of continents.

I come from no story,

        from no invention,
        from no blame.

I come from pink
salt beds and sea
froth. I come

        from the flesh
        of fruit and the woman
        who ate it,

who already existed
without shame.


Brittani is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and minor in Creative Writing. She has previously been published in Mosaic Magazine and currently lives in Columbus, Ohio, where she works in marketing and freelance writing.

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Photos by Drew Spacht

1

For a few short months out of the year, some of the richest feeding grounds on Earth can be found in Antarctica.

2

Whales, seals, and seabirds make their way from all around the world to take advantage of the massive krill stocks that form as a result of some of the largest algal blooms in the world.

3

During this time, many birds mate and raise offspring, feeding their chicks on the bountiful krill and fish that can be found here each year.

4

Antarctica is also one of the fastest warming places on the planet, increasing by about 3˚C along the Antarctic peninsula alone within the past 60 years.

5

This increase in temperature has decreased the sea ice season by approximately 90 days.

6

In a region where the entire food chain revolves around reliable sea ice formation, 90 fewer days of sea ice could mean the difference between life and death for many organisms.

7

While it is as of yet uncertain what the long-term effects of human-induced Climate Change will be, one thing is certain: if we continue business as usual, the Antarctic as we know it will cease to exist.

8

Antarctica is unique and beautiful, and it is largely untouched by direct human influence.

9

More importantly, this land belongs to no country and every country, which means that positive change here is more likely to catalyze positive change around the world.

10

This photo series is meant to draw attention to the beauty and importance of Antarctica, from the animals to the landscape to the whole planet. The ultimate wilderness and the last continent can’t survive unless we fight the change we have wrought on our planet’s climate.


Drew Spacht has been practicing photography for just over a year, initially getting his start while on a research expedition to Antarctica. Since then, he has become completely enthralled by the art of capturing moments. He is particularly interested in landscape and wildlife photography, and he would ultimately like to pursue a career as a photographer with National Geographic. Educating people about the spectacular wildlife and locations we have on this planet is of the utmost importance to Drew, and his deep love for the 7th continent and this planet has driven his pursuit of photography as a career.

Drew has had images featured in the Columbus Dispatch, the Columbus Museum of Art’s website, The Editor’s Spotlight section of the National Geographic Yourshot Community, and the Alumni magazine of his alma mater, Mercyhurst University. When not in Antarctica, Drew is based out of Columbus, Ohio.

Find Drew on Instagram (@spachtenator) and his website for images of Antarctica and beyond.

Smithereens

Fiction by Tyler Sones

        For Halloween, you dress up as an Andean tribeswoman. You model your costume on a woman in a picture you found in National Geographic—a porkpie hat with a purple band you pat with coffee grounds so it looks authentically dirty, a complicated blanket draped around your shoulders, petticoat, skirts, and some turquoise earrings you got in New Mexico forever ago. It’s frustrating choosing between sandals and shoes, shoes and sandals. You consider going barefoot, but all the carpets are gone and the floors are so cold.

        Your husband Jimbo doesn’t dress up as anything. He knows how much you like Halloween, though, and he’s really a very sweet man. He clomps up from the basement, claps out a rhythm on his knee, and watches you dance. You twirl, spinning your blanket around you and smiling till your cheeks are sore, chanting nonsense to the tune of “Smoke on the Water.” As a gift, Jimbo gives you one of those long beef jerky tubes that he’s been saving. You start eating at one end, he starts at the other, and y’all meet in the middle in a kiss that only sounds gross when you try to explain it.

        Outside, the landscape is a sinister medical experiment gone off without a hitch. Trees are new monsters who urge you to hold your applause until the end. Who hold their hands up like they’re saying don’t shoot. This is why your neighbors keep the curtains drawn.

        You’re pretty sure when things return to normal that you can return alongside them. But Jimbo’s been spoiling himself over a battlemap of Civil War II, and you’re not sure if that’s just peculiar or beyond the pale. You let him try to explain a crucial battle, the part where the Upper Nebraska Corridor is blown to smithereens by drone swarms launched from Studio City, California. Jimbo’s losing general is a ball of dryer lint with toothpicks for antennae perched atop a rubber hamburger and barking orders only Jimbo can hear. The victor, Brigadier General Abelard Klee, is a He-Man action figure wearing a breastplate and khakis, standing upon Yuma, Arizona. In his left hand, the general’s got He-Man’s sword, whatever it’s called, and in the other, a tiny bouquet of plastic flowers. Jimbo expects you to follow the troop movements and understand what he understands. He makes explosion sounds and thumps the vanquished from the table. He doesn’t look at you when he swipes his hand across the southern states. A FEMA truck flies all the way from Georgia to land in your cleavage. You don’t feel good about any of it—Jimbo, the war. You haven’t slept without a pill since summer.

        People move in across the street, and they install an inflatable snow globe in the yard, in the shade of the tamarind tree. You think you remember Mr. Cuthbert planting that tree in the early aughts, drinking cans of Bud Light Lime and wiping his forehead with his sleeve. Poor Mr. Cuthbert. The tamarind tree has grown tangled too, like all the other trees, but its shelter keeps the snow globe out of the wind. You try to wave at the neighbors through the window, but they don’t ever open the curtains. Maybe you’ll make them some banana bread. The snow globe reminds you to nag Jimbo again about the Christmas decorations.

        Jimbo says that’s not a snow globe and stomps down the stairs to the basement. If it’s not a snow globe, smart guy, then what is it?

        You’re going to have to start writing things down. Everything reminds you of something else. Christmas and Chanukah, sandals and shoes. A hawk, from when there were hawks, bursting from a tree with a grackle in its talons, diving low over the street, and on its tail a whole family of grackles, how you watched them disappear and hoped that the predator would not win, that some equivalent of good might triumph. And now the way your breath snags when you try to breathe deeply—it reminds you how the angel of death passed over your home, just like you hoped it would. Maybe Jimbo had actually remembered to paint lamb’s blood over the front door when you mentioned it weeks ago. But, of course, he didn’t. Of course, it’s just plain luck. And you know it’s not a snow globe too, but it’s the holiday season, you’re lonely,and you just want things to be nice like they used to.


Tyler Sones is an MFA candidate at The Ohio State University. He’s originally from Texas, and his work has previously appeared in North Texas Review and Mockingbird Collective.

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