Sand Cake

By Lisa Reilly

My birthday cake drowns in the foam, its stick-candles
and pretty shells swept away by the sea. I watch

from my sandy fortress, legs splashed by the salty surge.
My father lovingly rebuilds the castle walls, stolen

by the endless pull of water. Pink spade in hand, he digs
the moat again and again, to capture each summer wave.

His eyes smile from his young face; his hair is crisp with salt.

Amid the sea’s tumble and whisk of cake ingredients,
I long to eat the brown sugar sand, and years later, in Greece,

I feel its gritty texture against my teeth: sesame halva.
I taste its sandy sweetness and remember

wet sand, a pink plastic spade, and my father;
he digs a moat around me and I am surrounded by water,

a deep channel that, now, he will never cross.

I Didn’t Feel Like A Girl

By Aimée Keeble

When I was a child I wanted to be a boy.

I didn’t want to be a girl who played sports. I wore blue instead of pink. I wanted my body to morph. I wanted a shocking metamorphosis. My mother let me keep my hair short, and I only wore boys clothing. One morning before school I stuffed a roll of socks down my pants and arranged it so it sat over my pubic bone. I felt invulnerable like I carried a pistol between my legs.

The girls in my class were hysterical. Why couldn’t they see I was a boy? They figured since they had known me since kindergarten they knew I was a girl. I just hid it well, I replied as they laughed at me, shrieking as they pushed me into the boys’ bathroom. What’s your name? They would leer, each day, just to check if things had changed. Jake, I would say, my name is Jake. 

I would sign all my classwork as Jake. My teachers said nothing. My parents said nothing. I was left with the quiet and gentle freedom of self-discovery unencumbered by time. 

I drew a lot; scribbled wolves, sharks, things with teeth. Everything I wanted to be was fanged. I was horrified by motherhood. Pop culture showed mothers to be women, once unbound to anything, then when they became pregnant, heavier and precious.  I imagined mothers to be always pink and slow moving, like beautiful and alien sea creatures who only knew fluidity and ate great chunks of love like it were watermelon.

I, on the other hand, wanted to tear at the world and crash into life like I was born in armor. Only boys and men were allowed to straddle a horse as if it were a woman. I did not want to be limited by what my body supposedly permitted. If women were perceived as the weaker sex I wanted to rally against pretty, against soft, against nice. I couldn’t understand why boys could be boys and I had to be better. So I played a boy and hacked at my hair and bared my teeth at anyone who said what a pretty girl.

Being in my body felt more than wrong, it felt accidental. As if I had tripped into the wrong wormhole and found myself in a parallel universe where everything was warped.

The Love You Had For Boxing

By Anonymous

You had a purpose here, and you were keen to see it fulfilled. You wanted to become a trainer. I was the right height and size so you put all your enthusiasm onto me and it lit my life up.

The love you had for boxing was so pure, as if it was music, something that that had as much depth as any art form. I was having trouble talking at the time, so any means of expression was a blessing and in that sense we became a perfect match.

One time, as I’m warming up, you and Dad are having a conversation, and Dad references someone talking close to him- and you say: ‘Like a close talker, like in Seinfeld.’ And the skipping rope whipped my shins.

‘You know Seinfeld?’

‘Yeah, I love Seinfeld.’

The bridge between a trainer and a friend is very short, and made from sitcom quotes.

To The Man Who Killed My Friend

By Aimée Keeble

In memory of Patrick Braxton-Andrew

This is a letter for El Chueco and his gang. For those who were there, and especially for the man who pulled the trigger.

First, I think of the mountains where you live – all treacherous like some hollowed out old moon, dirty with drug dust and blood. You seethe and broil in a landscape that is cartoonish. Forgive me. When I think of the Mexican desert I think of roadrunners and the ponderous skulls of cattle; I am not as well travelled as my friend – the man you killed.

Then I imagine your face and sometimes it is diamond shaped like a rattlesnake, sometimes it is vulpine like a desert dog. I want to hold the frame of your jaw in my hand and check your eyes, I want to know if callous is a color, if your pupils are a different shape because you are a killer? Perhaps they are lazy and staring, like all predatory animals’ eyes.

I wonder if you are short or tall. If you wear white because it throws back light. Maybe you wear a Sombrero or baseball hat. For whatever reason, I picture you in black trousers and high boots. Your clothes are grimy but not unclean; the canyon dust pollinates across your body as you work the valley’s crevices, as you bend your country to your will.

Forbidden Love

By Louise Trocchi

     

I wish you had
welcomed wholeheartedly 
   laughter
and a much closer 
    friendship 

No reason to
   hide
our true feelings

dangerously intense
a complex bombshell
  clandestine

but I see in your face
you missing me
    as
       I
         you.

Truncate

By Aaron Menzel

You can watch plenty of movies

On a fourteen-hour flight.

Knock back a few Jack’n’cokes

(You’re sure these are free?)

As you drift off against your seatmate.

Or

You could think.

And fourteen hours is a

Stupendous amount of time

For thoughts to ferment

to stagnate.

(What if there’s snow in Chicago?

The rental agency is closed?

Our bags are lost–

My suit is wrinkled.

They don’t blame me,

There’s no way I coulda known

Once More

By Gary Goodman

By Gary Goodman

I sat outside a café

the dog at my feet

as the sun moved behind a cloud

a thought came to me –

if someone told me I had an incurable disease

all I’d want is

to ask if I could hold you one more time

Punnett Square

By Anonymous

The hue of rage is black not red.

He taught her this when she was six, and he locked her out of her house for being a child, a crescent moon night beat blacker by darkening bruises in the crook of her arm.

He taught her this when she was eight, with a black belt lashed across skin made wet so the nerves would sting and sour, the blood would flow not stymy.

He taught her this when she was twelve, and he drew dark circles over her brother’s eyes, her mother’s wrists.

The Calls

By Claire Wilkins

It was me who made the two anonymous calls.

1988

You denied your ex-husband visitation rights to see his two and four-year-old children. All your siblings came to support you when you had to appear in family court. You were facing a prison sentence and a large fine. We were worried.

Your little ones were taken to a top East Coast doctor who confirmed their father’s sexual abuse.

Your eldest bravely spoke to the child psychologist and, in his limited language, corroborated what his father had done to he and his sister. Your older brothers talked about getting a hitman to kill your ex, others talked about having you leave the country.

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