The teacher had given the class a “quiet” class period just for the students to get started on the homework. As is the nature of highschoolers, it rapidly devolved into nobody working and everyone either chatting with each other or on their phones. 

Any other day, Ryan would breeze through half the homework, come upon a section that actually took effort, and then give in to someone’s insistence that he join their conversation. But on this day, he had other plans. He hadn’t even touched the worksheet because of something much more important he had in mind and he couldn’t afford to be distracted lest he lose his nerve.

If he was going to be messing with fate and the vita ante, he was going to need every ounce of courage he had. 

His gaze drifted to a single student at the front of the class. Just seeing them made Ryan nervous, memories of their hot and cold demeanor flashing in his mind. At best he could call them his frenemy as on good days would do something like warn him that he forgot to turn in the homework. But on bad days, he barely had to glance in their direction before they would glare at him with the fury of someone out for blood. 

Yet, you’d never guess their significance from their unremarkable long black hair, average build, or even the casual but dismissive way they interact with almost everyone else at the school. 

Everest Baser stood out as a teenager with the rare ability to recall their own past life, an enigma to all except the few they allowed close

The only reason Ryan and Everest hadn’t gotten into a fist fight over something stupid by this point was Everest’s unwillingness to be prompted into violence and Ryan’s fear of Everest using their “powers” to ruin his life.

To a lot of people, mostly his friends, he was paranoid and a bit of a vitaphobe. They had enough to deal with just because of the nature of being a vita ante and definitely didn’t need to add him creating problems on top of that.

Everest was, at worst, a little cold toward their classmates but freely willing to tutor anyone taking the same history class which more than made up for the coldness to most people. 

At the very least, everyone believed him when he suggested Everest was a vita ante. He had expected to be laughed out of the school or for his rumor spreading to get him suspended but instead even his closest friends said, “Yeah probably,” as if it were the most casual thing in the world. 

They showed all the signs of being a vita ante. They were mysteriously mature for their age, starting in late elementary school when their memories likely started trickling in. A certain few people could get a reaction out of them, positive or negative, without so much as having ever said a word to them. And while this is just a myth about them, many insisted the vita ante just had this look in their eyes that could make normal people shiver. 

There was someone among them that could recall the end of World War II and give a detailed recollection of the civil rights movement, and everyone was just so casual about it. 

“Why’d you bail on us last night?”

Angela’s full-volume question knocked him out of any trance he had dropped into. A small bubble of anger rose in his chest at the benign question taking his attention away.

Didn’t she know how important today was? He could literally rewrite his entire future within the next hour if he played his cards right. Hell, he could be setting up the dominoes to start a new era for mankind. Just ten feet from them was the key to either world peace, or World War III if he wasn’t careful.

“I bailed because I never agreed to go in the first place, you just assume I’ll come along. And besides, there’s more to life than loitering in a mall for three hours.”

He expected some sort of snappy comeback from her, as was most common whenever someone disagreed with her. Instead, he was treated to a suspicious silence of which was long enough that he looked away from his target and over to her.

Now she was staring at Everest too. Oops.

“Hey, Ryan…are you planning on asking them to help you with the homework or do I have to remind you they have a boyfriend? Or are you planning your debut on America’s Most Wanted?”

Damn it.

“Just the homework,” he lied smoothly despite it being obvious that Angela wasn’t going to believe anything he said. 

“Dude, I get it if small town life is getting to you and you’re accidently adopting some of the prejudices but even if morality is out the window, Everest would totally kick your ass and if not them, it would be Adrian, and if not him-”

“I get it,” he snapped, pissed off that she’d even assume he’d do something like that. “I was just lost in thought and I guess I was looking in their direction. Plus, I’ve already told you I’m not…”

He hesitated and he tried to come up with the right word for what she was accusing. All he could remember is it was a dumb name just like everything else related to reincarnation. 

“…prejudiced.”

“Nice save,” Angela said, obviously trying not to smile at his awkwardness. “The word is vitaphobic. You’re one of maybe ten people they’ll go out of their way to talk to, and you can’t even remember that they’re a vita ante?”

“No one confirmed that,” Ryan pointed out, mostly for petty reasons. He already knew why everyone looked the other way.

“It’s pretty obvious but do you want to ask the scary kid, who is potentially a hundred-year-old magical being, if they’re a part of a minority that is actively sought out and forcibly recruited by the government?”

He didn’t have to say anything for her to get her answer. 

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. So, you need an excuse to talk to them? I’ve got it. I need help on number seven-” she slapped her worksheet down on his desk, “-and I doubt they’d so much as give me the time of day so you’re going to go over and ask them to explain it to you.”

Oh, that was a lot smarter than his original plan of immediately blurting out questions about a sensitive subject.

It was also a way for Angela to get him to get the answers for the worksheet without any effort on her part. Well played.

Before he could lose the nerve (and before Angela could go off on another tangent, psychoanalyzing him) he pushed himself out of his chair and did his best to act natural as he walked to the front of the class. The movement quickly caught Everest’s attention as they had apparently finished the worksheet and were spaced out, staring at nothing.

“Mornin’,” they said in lieu of a full greeting. 

Most people, upon meeting Everest, never expected the slight southern drawl that came out of the mouth of someone who was wearing a spiked jacket and metal band t-shirt. 

“Hey! Can I get help on the worksheet?”

They seemed a bit startled and confused but gently nodded. “Sure, I guess, though I’m assuming this is just a coverup for something else you want to talk to me about.”

Three seconds in and they read him like a book. If he hadn’t known about them being a vita ante, he’d be blown away by their intuitiveness. 

Knowing there was nothing he could say to change their mind about that, when he dragged over an empty chair to sit in, facing them over their desk, he didn’t even bother with the worksheet.

“I need to ask you a couple questions. You don’t have to answer-”

“Yes, I’m a vita ante.”

Ryan felt like he’d be smacked over the head by that particular interruption. 

For most people, both vita ante and normal humans, blurting out something like that was at least a cause for concern. There was just a certain kind of “otherness” that the vita ante held and if they aren’t careful, they could bring on a lot of social stigma surrounding that “otherness”. 

“Duh,” Ryan said with a half-hearted laugh and only half the confidence required to be believable. “I’m pretty sure you’ve been running circles around me in history class ever since we met.”

“Not really,” they mumbled, frowning slightly at his strange behavior. “Is there something else you need if it’s not about that?”

“It’s still about that, I just…” He trailed off, trusting Everest to already be two steps ahead of him already. But rather than fill in the words for him or respond as if they knew exactly what he was trying to say, they were still just staring at him. 

Honestly he would have taken them reading him like a book over having them stare at him with piercing near-black eyes.

“Okay so, long story short, my dad is starting to really pressure me into choosing a career trajectory, like, right now and I have no idea what I want to do and I definitely don’t want to be my dad and discover later that I hate my job but my dream job is paid so much less than my current one and I-”

“Stop, stop, you’re rambling,” Everest interrupted him, raising their hands slightly in the universal ‘stop’ gesture. “You are stressed about the future. Why do you think I can help you with that?”

“You’re able to guess things about me now based on what my past incarnation was like. I was hoping you’d be able to give me something at least.”

“I can’t tell you anything about your lifelong career prospects. We were already drifting apart by our early 20s and the ten years we were friends were impressive enough considering I was being constantly harassed for just talking to you because I was the wrong color to talk to a white boy.”

That put out what was left of the fire burning in his chest like a bucket of cold water on the embers of a campfire. Everest didn’t often talk about being a Middle Eastern American in the mid to late 1900s unless pressed so it was easy to forget what they had experienced.

“I-” 

“Just forget I said that last bit, Princey.”

Their favorite teasing nickname for him had come back this time as an underhanded reminder that they still thought of him as some privileged rich kid.

“You do understand that I have absolutely no powers besides being able to remember my last incarnation, right? Because it sounds like you want me to wave my hands over my crystal ball and tell you to go to law school because the fates decided it. The only thing the universe has decided is that I am predestined to deal with you in every reincarnation.”

“I was wondering if that’s what I did in my past life and if I was happy doing that,” Ryan said a little more firmly, annoyance starting to bubble up in his chest. 

This was apparently the wrong thing to do because Everest didn’t even bother pointing out that his career didn’t have to be the same in subsequent lifetimes or that they had just said that they didn’t know how his career turned out. And if that wasn’t enough of a hint, their expression had switched from barely covered up annoyance to actively angry.

“Do you really think I’ve left everything up to someone else? That I’m just crossing my fingers that it’ll all get fixed before bad things start to happen? Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it and those who do not heed the warnings of vita ante are doomed to repeat their mistakes with every incarnation. And I didn’t trust you not to ignore me.”

Everest pulled out their phone and after taping the screen a few times and scrolling for what felt like hours, they turned the screen towards him. 

“Remember these guys?”

It was a screenshot of an article on a group of teenagers who got away with brutalizing a student because their parents paid the student’s family off. Their mugshots did at least spark some kind of hazy memory. 

“Uh, maybe. I think one of them tried to talk to me once but-”

He stopped when the fuzzy memory came into focus before his attention centered back on Everest.

“You like, physically pushed yourself between us trying to talk to me. When they started acting like assholes, you told them to go away and they didn’t like the fact that I didn’t want to bully you in response.”

“Yep.” 

“But now I’m just worried about what exactly you did to my future.”

The slightly more relaxed atmosphere that had settled around them immediately soured right back to where it had been when they had snapped at him.

“It was an impulse, I admit that.” Everest said carefully. “But even now I’m 80% sure I know who those guys were in their past life, and they changed you for the worst. I watched your personality change to better blend in with them and it was like I didn’t even know you towards the end.”

The wooden pencil they had been twirling between their fingers was now straining under the pressure of Everest’s tight grip.

“Reincarnation isn’t just repeating your life in a different century. Yes, we’ve got some major events we tend to match up between incarnations, but I doubt I’m going to fit into the kind of gender roles they had back in the 1950s.”

He started to ask another question but they cut him off, their voice beginning to rise above the din of the classroom.

“Did you do any kind of research before coming to me to solve all of your problems? Why do you have to be so self-centered all the time?”

“Why are you snapping at me. I’ve never done anything to you!”

They slammed their fist down on their desk hard enough and loud enough that the entire class was hushed into silence.

“Get the fuck away from my desk and don’t talk to me until you learn to listen.”

He didn’t have to think before he was stumbling to get out of his chair fast enough, worksheet forgotten and wrinkled in his tight grip. 

No one dared say anything to either of them for the rest of the period though they animatedly whispered between themselves the entire time, unsubtly glancing at the both of them. 

Even the teacher had apparently decided that Ryan had been in Everest’s personal space and thus Everest had the right to tell him off.

The moment the bell dismissed the class, Everest was off like a rocket leaving Ryan scrambling to catch up.

By the time he rounded a third corner, the hallway had gotten crowded enough that Everest was stuck having to hesitate every few seconds to dodge another student. 

It was just enough for him to catch up. They weren’t responding to him when he was shouting their name so without thinking, as soon as he got close enough, he tried to grab them by the shoulder. But before his hand could make contact, his fingers went through their hair, catching on it, and ultimately leading him to yank their head back in one swift movement. 

He was so concentrated on apologizing to them that he didn’t see their fist coming but instead felt it as it slammed into his stomach with the strength of a pacifist pushed much too far.

His back slammed into the row of lockers causing him to lose his breath a second time. Spots danced in his vision as Everest grabbed a fistful of his shirt but left their knuckles digging painfully into his sternum. 

“I’ve been as kind to you as I can force myself to be so that I’m not punishing you for what your last incarnation did, but you are driving me batshit crazy, Princey.”  

Ryan couldn’t find his voice to respond not for lack of breath but because he had no idea what to say that wouldn’t anger them. Except this only seemed to irritate Everest even more as evidenced by how they were slowly increasing the pressure on his chest.

Everest, despite being downright livid, took a moment to stop and glare at anyone badly hiding the fact that they were eavesdropping. There must have been something more potent in their glare compared to normal because the remaining students scattered, either to alert a teacher or to ignore what was going on. 

They pulled back slightly, releasing their physical hold on him but they still had him pinned down with that same glare. A mixture of fear and morbid curiosity kept him from following his desire to run. The whole situation must have been strange looking from the outside with Everest towering over Ryan’s slightly trembling form despite him being at least a couple inches taller. 

Everest dropped their voice both in volume and pitch making them quieter as if trying to share a secret with another spy.

“Fine, you want to know why I don’t like you? Your last incarnation murdered by husband,” Everest snarled at him. “Andrew was just as kind and soft spoken in that lifetime as he is in this one and you stabbed him because he got in the way of your plan. I barely survived your attack at the time but I bet you can guess how I responded to that.”

As they added that last sentence to their statement, their frown turned into a slight smile more sinister than genuine.

“Come on, Princey. You know what I’m talking about. I’ve heard what most of the school thinks of me. Scary, aggressive, emotionless. So, what do you think I did next after you killed Andrew?”

Outside of implying that their last incarnation had murdered his, there was something deeply discomforting when a vita ante started blurring the lines between their incantations and start referencing it all in first person.

After a minute, their shoulders relaxed and they shifted their bodyweight just enough that they were no longer leaning into Ryan’s personal space. Any student who had braved coming closer to try and hear backed up like Everest was a predator who could be evaded by staying out of their line of sight. 

It was at this point where Everest must have hit some unknown limit because they dropped their gaze and began avoiding looking directly at Ryan.

“Don’t worry about that particular event repeating. Like I said earlier, I already scared off the bad influences that led you down that path, you should be fine. Just do me a favor and stay away from Andrew.”

Ryan hadn’t realized how choked up with fear he had been until his voice cracked when he tried to respond.

“Okay.”

Fate had declared the conversation over by sending the school security officer fast-walking over to them. 

“Any chance you’d be willing to back me up in saying we were just rough housing?”

“Does that mean I get a redo?”

Everest barked out a humorless laugh, grinding just a little too wide at Ryan. “Definitely not, you crossed a line by accusing me of sabotage when I’ve been nothing but kind to you. You’ll have to rebuild the line from scratch and then we’ll see.”

“Close enough.” 

Between the two of them, they managed to convince the resource officer that they had just been messing around and recreating a scene from a movie they made up on the spot. They still got an earful for their violence though, but eventually they were told to just get to immediately go to their next class. 

Everest took this rather literally, turning on their heel but pausing to add something.

“Don’t assume this means I’m going to allow you near any of my friends without some serious consequences. That especially includes Andrew.”

They walked away before Ryan could come up with any kind of response.

The bell had rung several minutes before, urging the remaining students to either try and slip into class late or to go find somewhere to hang out for as long as they felt like skipping class. 

This left only one person in the hall with him.

“Dude, what in the hell just happened,” Angela asked, staring at him like the answer was written on his face. 

He considered lying about it for about .3 seconds before realizing the full story would be all over the school by the end of the class period and he wouldn’t be able to get around it at all. So instead, he summed it up as truthfully as he could.

“I think I just started my personal World War III.”



Jerri Moyes is a recent graduate from Texas Tech University and aspires to be an editor.


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Eeriness of divulgence 

by Alaro Basit.

“I will save the feral in you some space to trot. I will mow it a lawn in my orchard & carve a seat out of your flaws. Side by side with your glitches I shall sit like I’ve always did —not to judge nor applaud you”, these were the words scurried from my buccal on the last eerie eve of October when my childhood friend confessed his queerness to me. At first, I assumed the MJ’s thriller costume is to be blamed for his gibbers, but when his supratrochlear vein which only bulges when he is either angry or sincere emerged, I knew better than to swerve towards the enthralments of Halloween. That night, a lump built a hive in my throat —a feigned assertion. Isn’t this the parody of the cook a stone nightmare grandma used to tell me? Isn’t this what it means to ride a friend on a rocking horse?


Alaro Basit (NGP IV) is a versatile creative who writes and rhymes from Nigeria. His works are/shortcoming on. Say hello to him on Twitter @alaro_basit.

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Sublingua

By Cameron Finch

The dream goes like this: I am standing in a kitchen, standing at the sink. The world is dark outside, morning or night. Over the sink, I am holding a knife, a startling chef knife for chopping very fine onions or apples. Always the knife is arranged horizontally, as if I’m restraining it against the pull of levitation. Sometimes I bring my face to the knife, sometimes I bring the knife to my face. I look at the knife, I really look at it. 

Do I look at anything the way I look at this knife? 

As if it were a world. 

And then, I lick the blade, I just lick it! 

The thinness. The slicing part. Left to right, tip to handle, as easy and pleasing as finishing an envelope, or inspecting the long end of a wooden popsicle stick. 

I lick it and am satisfied at the person I have been. I am the one with the tongue that survived another dream.

Knives are concerning matters. I know this. Yet I am safe in the cushion of this dream. There is no pain here, no death drives, no fear or stress or anger. And when there’s bloodshed – because there is sometimes bloodshed (my real body has been on the hunt for alternate ways of punctuating itself for some time now) – it’s the thoughtless blood, the kind that isn’t real, cinema blood, the riskless blood.

This is not a confession. It is a releasing of bodily burdens. It is curiosity for another way.

Still, in the dream, I look over my shoulder with caution. Do not get caught. And yet, the halving through the wide part of my tongue releases into me a coolness, like the outlaw coolness of menthol as it trickles down a lacquered throat and finds itself a home, a coolness that evaporates all concern of being found out. Sensation over conscience. 

I imagine the slit scarring my tongue like a nest of striations. You know those rocks with white stripes – I call them measuring tapes – around their bellies. My slit is not a measuring tape – it isn’t numbered or readable. It is there and then is not, repairing and preparing for the next dream to come. 

Still, imagine having two tongues! Little meats, the one standing on the other’s back, keeping each other warm, keeping each other company. Why stop at two? I am fighting – fighting – binaries. Let us stack the tongues up like carpets, sliced finely as tomato skins. What a thrill! to possess your own private champion right there in the satchel of your mouth. 

I’ve been reading about lemurs and their sublingua, a quest or maybe distraction on the way to knowing myself. 

Sublingua. Under-tongue. With no taste buds of its own, the sublingua’s function is to remove unwanted fur and debris from the crevices between the lemur’s grooming teeth.

Sublingua. I want to speak this word to everyone I meet. Sublingua, the Musical! Sublingua, how luxurious! An under speech, a quieted ecstatic dance, a dust ballet beneath a muscled stage, with a grammar of gestures all its own.

I’ve been seeking out a tongue body to cast away all this lingual debris that daily enlivens, emboldens our world’s mighty impasse. The fricative impasse of my own body, too. 

So, what is the function of the tongue dream? Other than to have something to tell you about. 

Are dreams our brain’s sublingua? 

I keep a knife between the wall and my bed, in case I dream throughout the night. Why the night? Where does the knife tongue spend the day? Is this what it means to be sub-lingua? A night being, a fruit staticking a bowl? 

The under-language. Some of us power in the dark with it. 

If my sublingua is a sock hand in the mouth, marine creature sleeping as I do, who can hear this alien puppet’s song? 

You can, of course. 

You can, and I imagine so can the tongue, with its own unique and impossible listening mechanisms. 

The body was very difficult last night. Having one > I mean. 

Everything is seeping to the surface it seems. 

The mounds and their meanings. 

I am everywhere I go, and I am tired of assumptions. 

Do I wish for myself a tongue body? Chestless, sexless, exempt from public haunt, nothing but tongue and the dance of itself. 

Do I think of anything the way I think of tongues? As if they were another world.

There’s a Dutch poem I always liked – 

Ik wou dat ik twee hondjes was. 

I wish that I was two dogs. 

Dan kon ik samen spelen. 

Then I could play together. 

Play with me for a moment. Let’s replace the hound with tongue. 

Is this lonely? Sexy? 

I can see only tongues as they are. Nothing modifying. Two tongues, plump and significant not-quite-genders, side by side, or maybe stacking. They have no need for contact in order to play together. They are playing, together apart. They are creating their own survival. Their playing and existing are of symbiotic natures.

But, what is all this romanticizing about the wealth of tongues? Tongues are not free. Enslaved by our wants, they are ridiculed and beleaguered and victims of quick judgments or no judgments at all. 

Here comes the confession, I am ready to confess this part. 

I have never consulted with my tethered tongue. Not even at the sink with the knife in my hand. 

I ask, the tongue does. Now what does the tongue have to say about that.

To my tongue: tell me you can keep a secret. I do not know my tongue’s own language – terrible, I know. If not with words, then where does a tongue find its voice? 

Robin Wall Kimmerer: “What if you were a teacher but had no voice to speak your knowledge? What if you had no language at all and yet there was something you needed to say?”

Kimmerer is speaking of plants, but who is speaking for the tongue? What language does our most articulate organ use to express itself? What sound does the tongue make to entertain itself in the dark aloneness of a mouth?

“Wouldn’t you dance it? Wouldn’t you act it out? Wouldn’t your every movement tell the story?” 

Tongue, what are you trying to tell us? Don’t you, too, speak with waltzing, writhing motions? A tongue sliced out of its home body – would it stay still and silent? What then? 

“In time you would become so eloquent that just to gaze upon you would reveal it all.” 

Open your mouth, tongue. Your sublingua is listening. The knife is on the table. 

Tongue: 

It is impossible not to reveal yourself.

Tongue: 

More impossible to unreveal once begun.

The knife is on the table. The sweetheart of the Green Berets, with the warning pink sweater and molten oil smeared on her face, the blackened leather tongues strung like impaled cicadas on a copper coil around her neck – she is nowhere to be found. She will not make a spoil out of you. We are told she is part of the land again, creeping back into it. She still knows power and torture, oh yes. She carries that with her. Just different now. And the tongues? They are returning to the land, too, crawling on their hands and knees as they turn into other things, relieved.

Tongues are rampant in literature. Gendered, mostly. Violent, mostly. Hacked,  wrenched, stolen, swallowed, molested, held, worn.  

Could there still be a chance for us yet? The sea witch is in the other room. Her cauldron is bubbling over, she is distracted, her back is turned. We can escape back into ourselves, our pith language, by the skin of our tongues. 

I feel I am beginning to see myself in every common tongue. Is this true? I don’t know. I’m finding it impossible to speak about anything, about bodies, about having one, being one. Tongue or no tongue.

But the mind knife is again in my grasp, slick and spooling, silver between my teeth. My glossary is salivating. The taboo of the lick, the theater of it, I am almost haunted by all this hope. 

You see, in my dream, what I lick can’t hurt me. I articulate and it comes out just right.


References: 

  1. The phrase “exempt from public haunt” is from William Shakespeare’s play As You Like It. 
  2. The Dutch poem refers to Michel van der Plas’s poem, “Spleen” (2012). 
  3. Lines from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s essay, “The Three Sisters.” Braiding Sweetgrass (2013).
  4. The story of the Green Berets and the tongue necklace refers to Tim O’Brien’s story,  “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong.” The Things They Carried (1990).
  5. In Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”, the sea witch cuts out the mermaid’s tongue and boils it in her cauldron. 

BIO: Cameron Finch is a writer, dreamer, editor, community arts member, and tree kin, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Cameron’s writing appears in various places including The Adroit Journal, The Common, CRAFT, Electric Literature, Isele, Michigan Quarterly Review, Tiny Molecules, and The Rumpus. Read more at ccfinch.com.


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Light Spots: Poetry.

Sylvia Bernhardt

Light Spots

Blind courage 

Has moved me once more.

Scabbed yet gently painted,

My toes brush the dirt aside

To check for glass or unknown

Hurts. Others,

Blind in their own respects,

Dropped spilt or threw

On the path I trod.

Pilgrims passing through will

Look upon me, with jealous

Tired, eyes. Beneath my,

Brown iris, fervent fear

Streaks through like,

Darkened ink stains. 

The universe must look

Upon me in pity.

Cast it away.

I do not. 

Not yet.

Tightened to my waist.

A flimsy measure to

Hold me incase this,

Path becomes traitorous.

Despite the valiant effort,

From my war-torn toes,

Glass still cuts through.

Thorns still pierce, 

And the rope,

Tightened.

Makes breathing,

Difficult. Yet,

Warmth.

A spot of light,

That splits the canopy

Of leaves and lands

On the palm

Of my outstretched hand.

Holy Reverence,

For a light,

I failed to see,

Before this mission.

The path is dark, misty

Cold and beautiful. Maybe,

At the end I will see the sun.

Lead me blind courage,

Lift my foot once more.


Scars and Lipstick

It is a wonder for me,

To be here.

Yet, here is where I am.

Clean and steamed.

Unharmed but not unscarred.

Tears, pokes, and prods

At one point blessed this body.

Before I was myself.

An alien holding a mask.

That I tore at and bit.

Gnawed upon and slit,

In the desperate gropes 

Of my animalistic nature. 

Yet,

Here I am.

Unimpressive,

Unnatural proportions,

And extra things

I wish I never had.

But, I can look

Now, Upon myself.

No tears slip through.

The face I once 

Had loathed,

Has now softened.

I can gaze,

Into a steam-marked mirror,

After a quick shower,

And not wish to throw

Myself against the glass.

Till the shards bit deep enough

For this costume to give and

Slide away into the sink.

There. My eye.

So gentle it appears.

Reflective of a part

That I have hidden.

No more.

It shines in the corner.

A delicate fire tending

To the needs of the soul.

Is this what it means,

To feel my heart beat

And not wish it to cease?

This feeling so small.

Delicate and easy for

Others to crush and mangle.

Remember, remember,

The price we paid,

The skin we scarrerd,

Scaling this slope.

I wiggle my hips,

I smile.


Infliction

If Caliban were to gaze upon its own flesh what would it think?

Monstrous legs twisting like the tendrils of a mangrove, swathed with matted hair,

The skin beneath coarse and pale as if the sun herself were ashamed to look,

Scarred and damaged, its arms share a story of pain and self-inflicted misery,

Marks that ooze and spill and bubble at the lack of care given,

Its hands in their grotesque form that fumble and break all that they touch,

The worst offense to God and nature occurs at the shoulders,

Broad and thick, hunched over and desolate of any beauty,

Clothes barely fit upon the back of the beast,

Never able to hide the features well enough to rid it of the glares from others,

Its face, hideous, malformed, and aged by the years of self-hatred.

Crude fibers sprout from its face no matter how often a blade is taken to it,

Hair coated in grime falls scrappily and short,

Doomed to never feel the gentle blow of an Autumn breeze.

How does such an abomination live with itself knowing that its soul and body will never be one?


Writer’s Bio: Sylvia Bernhardt was raised in Annapolis, Maryland. She spent most of her childhood near the Chesapeake Bay. If she is not working on her upcoming novel then she is most likely serving tables. Sylvia is the proud owner of an 82’ VW Vanagon. She hopes one day it will run.

Photo by Sarah Leamy


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Global Arts Fund

“Established in 2013 and building on our legacy of funding for the arts, Astraea’s Global Arts Fund supports, showcases and connects impactful art by LGBTQI people and organizations that are using art as a tool for social transformation and have limited access to resources for this critical work.”

I recently came across this organization and their commitment to working with LGBTQ groups and individuals. I’d been looking for a grant to help with my work on Gender Ambiguity and Androgyny. I don’t think there is help for me here but you might find something. I hope so. (Sarah)

Check them out: https://www.astraeafoundation.org/about-us/

Tonight! Sinister Wisdom 124: Deeply Held Beliefs

Sinister Wisdom 124: Deeply Held Beliefs published Spring 2022

Sinister Wisdom 124: Deeply Held Beliefs Spiritual/Political Activism of Lesbian Feminists in the South brings together the sixth and last issue of stories collected by the Southern Lesbian Feminist Activist Herstory Project (SLFAHP). Many of these stories show the intersection of spirituality and religion with politics and social justice movements in the South. In the 1960s, the South became the crucible for civil rights activism that developed and fed the lesbian-feminist activism of the last decades of the twentieth century. Throughout Southern states, lesbian-feminists were leaders in many kinds of social justice activism that often intersected with the religious and spiritual activism that was taking place in the women’s movement all over the country. This final issue of the series of issues curated by the Southern Lesbian Feminist Activist Herstory Project explores spiritual paths, expressed through both traditional religious practices and creative work led by spirit, and political action guided by deeply held beliefs in social justice, the divine feminine, and commitment to preserving and defending Mother Earth.

Register here for Zoom access to the launch reading Tuesday, April 12th at 7 p.m. / EST

Foglifter~ Reading Tonight!

Queer Reading Tonight! THURSDAY MARCH 24TH. SEE INFO BELOW


BETWEEN FUTURITY AND CHAOS: IMAGINING QUEERER POSSIBILITIES

Join us TOMORROW for a reading hosted by Foglifter, just femme & dandy at SMOL Fair!We’re so excited to announce our virtual reading, Between Futurity and Chaos: Imagining Queerer Possibilities! Hosted by Foglifter and just femme & dandy at SMOL Fair, this free event will feature work from Tarik Dobbs, Aldo Amparán, Kirin Khan, Wo Chan, Elle Hong, KB, and K. Iver, and Wryly T. McCutchen.

Thursday, March 24th at 5:00 PM (PT). Closed captioning and ASL interpretation will be available. This event is free to the public. 
RSVP to our event!MEET OUR GUEST EDITORS FOR ISSUE 7.2



We are thrilled to welcome Mihee Kim, Zak Salih, and Tauheed Zaman as guest editors to our team! 

Guest Fiction Editor: Zak Salih (he/his) is the author of the novel Let’s Get Back to the Party, recommended by O, the Oprah Magazine; BuzzFeed; Cosmopolitan; The Millions; Electric Literature; Vanity Fair; the Advocate; Harper’s Bazaar; Kirkus Reviews; Lambda Literary; and other publications. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Foglifter, Epiphany, Crazyhorse, the Florida Review, the Chattahoochee Review, the Millions, Apogee Journal, Kenyon Review Online, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. He lives in Washington, DC. 

Guest Poetry Editor: Mihee Kim (she/her) is a writer, visual artist, and cultural organizer. She works intuitively across disciplines and traditions, foraying between writing, multi-modal collage, painting, and craft forms. Her writing has been nominated for Best of the Net, a Pushcart Prize, and her manuscript Nomenclature was named a finalist for the Bergman Prize. Nomenclature is forthcoming from Kelsey Street Press in the Fall of 2022. She earned a BA from UC Berkeley and an MFA at California College of the Arts, where she was awarded the Leslie Scalapino Award. Mihee is also managing director of Kearny Street Workshop, a longstanding arts nonprofit for Asian Pacific Americans. She creates on Chochenyo Ohlone land, also known as beloved Oakland, California.
 
Guest Hybrid and Nonfiction Editor: Tauheed Zaman (he/him) is a Bengali-American writer and physician who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. His prose appears in Salon and Foglifter Press. His science writing has been published in several medical journals including the Journal of Addiction Medicine and Substance Abuse Journal. When not writing, you can find him kayaking the Pacific coast or singing with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.These writers have contributed incredible works to our journal, and we cannot wait for their vision to shape our next issue. For full bios of our guest editors, please visit this website

SUBMISSIONS ARE OPEN! Send your incredible work to our gorgeous editors by May 1st!


MEET THE NEW MEMBERS OF THE FOGLIFTER TEAM!



We’re so excited to welcome new members to our staff and announce a reorganization of our leadership. Learn more about our growing team below!Foglifter is thrilled to have Charlie Neer (they/them) as our new Accessibility Coordinator! Charlie is a nonbinary queer writer from the Bay Area. Their work is featured or forthcoming in “Show Me Your Papers” by Main Street RagThe Swamp Literary Magazine, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and more. Charlie Will continue to serve as our Assistant Poetry Editor in addition to this new role.

We are overjoyed to announce that Michal “MJ” Jones (they/him) is now our Editor-in-Chief! MJ is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet & parent in Oakland, CA. Their poems have appeared in Anomaly, Kissing Dynamite, TriQuarterly Review, & wildness. Often addressing the troubling and haunting aspects of life, violence, and identity, MJ’s work blends the lyrical, documentary, and confessional modes. They have received fellowships from Hurston/Wright Foundation, VONA/Voices, & Kearny Street Workshop. They received their MFA in Creative Writing—Poetry from Mills College, where they received the distinguished Community Engagement Fellowship. They founded & currently facilitate Litany!, a monthly workshop for a cohort of Black queer poets. Their debut poetry collection HOOD VACATIONS is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2023, and they are hard at work on their second collection! Learn more at michal-jones.com.

We’re excited to welcome Judah Greenberg as our new Community Assistant! Judah is a queer Jewish writer and a 2021 graduate of Kenyon College. They are the 2021 winner of the Muriel C. Bradbrook Prize in prose. Judah is passionate about queer theory, Hamlet, and villains with tragic backstories (examples include but are not limited to Star Wars’ Kylo Ren, My Hero Academia’s Dabi, and The Monster from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein). They have recently uprooted from their hometown in Maryland and now reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 
For full bios of our new staff, please visit this website

Apply to be a part of Foglifter now!


MEET OUR NEW BOARD!
Foglifter is happy to announce our new board members! We are thrilled to be led by such a fantastic group of queer leaders. This Board will be part of our new leadership and help our staff create the most inviting, celebratory space for queer and trans writers and artists. Stay tuned for more updates to our beautiful Foglifter team!Thank you to Natalia Vigil, Arisa White, Ruben Quesada, Matthew Clark Davison, Dr. Alicia Mountain, and William Johnson for joining the team!To access their full bios, please click here!MILO TODD’S NOVEL WRITING WORKSHOP!

There’s still time to apply for Milo Todd’s writing workshop!


Application deadline is March 28th


After 2.5 years of planning, it’s finally arrived! The Novel Immersive for LGBTQ+ Writers is a virtual, all-queer workshop and craft lecture program. For LGBTQ+ writers, a lack of queer-focused guidance, support, and community in writing workshops can stifle or even stall progress for novels. Taking place remotely over nine months, the Novel Immersive for LGBTQ+ Writers is a program uniquely designed to fill this void and help queer writers complete or make significant progress towards completing a draft of their novel in a supportive community. LGBTQ+ writers will leave this immersive with a finished and/or more polished draft, a trajectory for getting published (including support for applying to higher-level GrubStreet programs, such as the Novel Incubator), and a supportive queer writing community that they can hold onto long after the program is over.Apply here!LUIZA GURLEY’S CHAPBOOK WORKSHOP!

Learn how to craft your chapbook project with Luiza Flynn-Goodlett!Do you have an idea that’s too unwieldy, strange, or diffuse for a single poem? A story to tell in verse? Or a voice you can’t shake? Enter the chapbook project—a place to explore and expand, and ultimately, travel outside your comfort zone to thrilling results.In this workshop, students will initiate a chapbook-length series of narrative poems, emerging from the process with a solid foundation on which to build their chapbook project.
Register here!

VISIT OUR SHOP!



Our anthology is now available as an ePUB! 
Purchase it here.

 

Issues 6.1 is now available for purchase! 
Buy it here. As always, shop via Amazon Smile to donate a percentage of your order to Foglifter!

Have a lovely start to your spring!  We hope to see your submissions soon.

New Resource: Libguide on LGBTQ Writers and Artists in Special Collections

HORNBAKELIBRARY

Hornbake Library’s Literature and Rare Books collectioncontains many excellent works by LGBTQ writers and artists.  If you would like to learn more about works by LGBTQ people in Literature and Rare Books but aren’t sure where to start, we have the solution.  Exploring Hornbake’s holdings from LGBTQ writers is easier than ever with our new subject guide, LGBTQ Writers and Artists in Special Collections!

More info here: https://hornbakelibrary.wordpress.com/2021/04/15/new-resource-libguide-on-lgbtq-writers-and-artists-in-special-collections/