The Sunset Over San Diego | Hollis Rigney

How do I write a goddamn
gay poem! How can I not
write the word gay, where are
the others! Why do I know
one or three names, their queerness
a nail on their fourth finger,
a thing like an earring loose
in a purse, why can I not
claim them, say Hello! You’ve
not been lost! You are mine!
You are ours! You can call
yourself whatever you want!
You can help me write all of
the words you could not!
We can put them in a goddamn
poem together, you & I!

 


Hollis Marguerite Rigney is a non-binary queer poet who lives and works in Orange, CA and San Diego, CA. They have published work under the names of Hannah Teves and Hollis Teves. Their work has previously appeared in Calliope, Sapere Aude, The Messy Heads, Neologism Poetry, Eudaimonia Press, Ghost City Press, Bone & Ink Literary Magazine, and Blanket Sea Arts & Literary Magazine. They are also the editor-in-chief of The Fruit Tree, a literary magazine for LGBT+ writers. They enjoy listening to folk music and snuggling with their kitten, Tofu. Contact them at hnteves@gmail.com or on Twitter @unisexlove.

Sonnet for Gay History | Keaton St. James

Along the crimson threads of history must stand one
of my long-dead gay predecessors: rainwater in his hair,
hunger in his eyes, his mouth shining golden with laughter
as he tugs at me, tugs at me to remember him.

I imagine him seated on a half-dry park bench
near the cobblestone streets, his and his lover’s tailcoat-
clad shoulders brushing as they talked Euripides
under the gaslights. He knew too well how they both

savored whatever quiet touches the public allowed
them. And I imagine how, after he had climbed
into their shared bachelor apartment, my predecessor pulled
his lover close and kissed him hard enough to uninvent

the word indecency. Did loving a man feel as warm to him
as it does to me? Like light bursting through stained glass?

 


Writer’s Commentary

When you’re in the closet, it can be a complex process to eke out a space for yourself where you can have that privacy but also have your pride at the same time. For me, one of the biggest sources of comfort I find as a gay man is to read stories of real-life LGBT history, as well as classic literature featuring non-straight characters. This poem is meant to be a loving speculation on the ways in which gay men of another century may found solace in each other, and how we can find traces of ourselves in the legacies of those who have come before us.


Keaton St. James is an American graduate student studying science who loves to write poetry and prose in his spare time.

Dr. Alan L. Hart, Connecticut State Tuberculosis Commission, 1955 | Keaton St. James

The white-haired patient sitting in front of him has three
tiny lesions in her lungs. On the x-ray film they glower at him
like blackbirds poking their heads out of sun-warmed
fields of Oregon wheat. As he prepares to get her the anti-biotics
she needs, she tells him a story of her girlhood, milking
cows on her father’s farm, filling wicker baskets with ripe,
sweet peaches, the back of her neck peeling from sunburn.

What should he tell her of his boyhood? How he crawled
on his belly to reenact Civil War stories and tumbled
back inside with mud smeared all over his heavy jacket
and crusted into his long hair? How he reveled in the sweat
dripping down his back as he chopped wood late into lavender-
tinted evenings, the air crisping as it cooled?

He settles on the pocketknife collection kept under his bed
in an emptied Ovaltine can. He doesn’t mention how he carried
them in skirt pockets, doesn’t mention how his mother
reminded him, her voice as smooth as cold cream, “Maybe
young girls shouldn’t carry those things.” And yet
there they were anyway, the weight of them thumping
through linen against his legs as he ran.

Later, after the clinic closes for the day, he’ll drive
home in his sputtering Chevy, put potato soup on the stove
to heat, and take his wife’s storm-damp coat for her
when she comes through the door. He’ll kiss her blushing
cheeks, her soft jaw, the side of her neck while she laughs,
sound of it as golden as light glimmering on a lake.

And later still, when grasshoppers croon from the moonlit
Hartford meadowsweet and his wife sits up in bed
reading Dickens, he’ll be at his desk, testosterone syringe
clutched in hands. The needle will sink into cleaned,
exposed skin: sharp pinch in the thigh, push of the plunger,
synthetic hormones oozing into the muscle. Evidence,
like the hysterectomy scar on his abdomen, of how far he
journeyed to build in himself this river-swell of confidence.

Then, hormone treatments finished and cleared away,
he will change into candy-striped pajamas, take his place
again at his desk. Rain will gavotte on the roof to autumn’s
burnished music. His typewriter glows with a waiting
page from a half-drafted radiology lecture, and he wants
to stay up working on it.

 


Writer’s Commentary

Dr. Alan L. Hart was an early 20th century radiologist whose pioneering research on the use of x-ray technology to detect tuberculosis would go on to save thousands of lives. And in 1917, he also had the distinction of becoming one of the first transgender men in America to have a hysterectomy. He had to fight to be seen, enduring transphobia, harassment, and being outed in the struggle to be recognized as his true self. But through it all, he remained passionately dedicated to his work, confident in himself, and so generous and kind. As a trans man myself, his story helps give me the pride to stand up and be who I am today, so I wrote this poem in honor of him.


Keaton St. James is an American graduate student studying science who loves to write poetry and prose in his spare time.

DEPRESS | Hollis Rigney

Just tell me I am brave! Just tell me
I am good for going on as long as I have.
Rub circles on my back this time.
Am I not better than Christian soldiers?
Am I not better than pilots diving for
the fish? Because I have stayed here,
because I have remembered the
small divot I have made in your bed
to come back to. Am I not brave for
how long I have remained, dull as I am?

 


Hollis Marguerite Rigney is a non-binary queer poet who lives and works in Orange, CA and San Diego, CA. They have published work under the names of Hannah Teves and Hollis Teves. Their work has previously appeared in Calliope, Sapere Aude, The Messy Heads, Neologism Poetry, Eudaimonia Press, Ghost City Press, Bone & Ink Literary Magazine, and Blanket Sea Arts & Literary Magazine. They are also the editor-in-chief of The Fruit Tree, a literary magazine for LGBT+ writers. They enjoy listening to folk music and snuggling with their kitten, Tofu. Contact them at hnteves@gmail.com or on Twitter @unisexlove.

Génératrice | Elspeth Wilson

The hall of mirrors
is not the place for me

I already see
myself drawn
a million times over
in other people’s faces

Caged but still singing
my mind prances within its confines
knowing enough to know
that I am contained but not to know how to traverse the boundaries
or to look for holes to shoogle through
one tendril at a time

A palace can be a prison
the opposite can be true
for if I was able to let my body rest a while
unnoticed, locked away
my mind would seize the freedom of the unobserved
and trill from heights that this flesh will never see.

 


Writer’s Commentary

The bodily and performative reflections of the hall of mirrors made me think about gender now and in the past. A place of such pride and status where you cannot escape your own self-image gave me pause to consider the ways that we can become trapped in our bodies through societal expectations of and projections onto the corporeal. It is often easy to regard history as a clear line of progress but writing in a voice that is somewhere between the past and present made me think about how some of the more fluid aspects of different eras and places are overlooked in an attempt to fit narratives around gender and sexuality into a sanitised, linear arc. Seeing myself over and over again is one of my worst nightmares and yet thinking about reproduction, of the image, the self, the body, made me feel connected to those dotted throughout the past whose bodies have been weaponised against them, just as we struggle to live in small, uncomfortable boxes now.


Elspeth Wilson is a researcher and writer interested in all things gender and sexuality related. She is a big believer in blurring boundaries between ‘art’ and ‘academia’ and always looks for creative ways to approach research. She prefers to write poetry, essays and short stories and is currently working on a project about the experience of pleasure post-trauma which you can see more of @propleasurable.

The Posture of Trees | Judy DeCroce

unexpectedly, a year has spilled
its worn days along the path

breaching a stand
where years lay
where colors shuffle
autumn tags beneath and above

like the posture of trees
I stand as straight as I can
feeling taller
going on

 


Writer’s Commentary

Tough times can bend you but persistence and pride can weather anything.


Judy DeCroce, a former teacher, is a poet and flash fiction writer.

She has been published in Pilcrow & Dagger, Amethyst Review, The Sunlight Press, Cherry House Press- Dreamscape:An Anthology, and many others.

She is a professional storyteller and teacher of that genre. Judy lives and works in upstate New York with her husband writer/artist Antoni Ooto. She can be found on Twitter @JudyDeCroce

Authentic Love Letter From Angel to Saffron | Harley Claes

Angel,

It’s a matter of letting go of any prior preconceptions, fears, and anxieties. And is it so easy letting go of that fear? Are we starting over or beginning from the ruins that were left to us?  ‘Love should be a safety net to fall into, comfort-like.’ I think I indulge in that fear more often than not that it has become my poison. I don’t want to be scared of what an us can do to my heart. Cause if it’s as true a love as we believe it is, we need not fear an end, never completely.

I love you like I feel your sentiment left on every place you’ve touched, like your perfume stains the cavern of my heart and soul, love like a thought that never ceases, and tick tick ticks at the back of your head. And it’s terrifying. But it shouldn’t be.
We need to fight for the highs and the lows and every limbo in between. I have the courage, it just has to be unraveled from its bundle and nursed truly. I know you feel much the same.

I’m ready to hold your hand as we step away from the inferno into the eternal light.

With love like a revolution, forever and always, Saffron

 


Writer’s Commentary

Authentic Love Letter from Angel to Saffron was written as a thread to reassure one another of the genuine love between them. A man had come between them and threatened to bust their love up. There was the fear of social backlash and the man’s physicality that kept their bodies apart but their minds tethered.


Harley Claes is a prose poet, perfume maker, and novelist from Detroit, Michigan. Her work is oftentimes anachronistic, mystical, philosophical and holy erotic. She also happens to run the Beat-inspired press ANGELICAL RAVINGS. Her first self-published anthology is titled ‘Pity The Poetics’ and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in 30+ literary journals. You can find her at harleyclaes.com

Florentine Discourse | Nathanael O’Reilly

(A found poem)

I’m in the zone, let me be
I prefer non-denominational

I’m well-travelled and well-educated
no one wants to know anything about you

it was totally reasonable to tell us to be quiet
and then it got really awkward

she’s really New York
I didn’t realize she had broken

up with her boyfriend
mozzarella – that’s so Italian

she broke up with him over text
after two and a half years

it’s like the Mason situation
every time she has sex she goes to confession

and thinks it erases it like whatever
my dad was forced to go to church

there are Pinocchios here
I should have told him about the bargaining

coffee! cappuccino!
hey babe, take a walk on the wild side

everything alright here?
oh what service!

what was the other thing he gave you?
red wine yes

I have a table over there right?
the toilets are in the back on the left

fantastic thank you
prego grazie

 


Nathanael O’Reilly is an Irish-Australian residing in Texas. His books include Preparations for Departure, Distance, Cult, Suburban Exile and Symptoms of Homesickness. His poetry has appeared in publications from twelve countries, including Antipodes, Cordite, Headstuff, Mascara, Skylight 47, Snorkel, Verity La and The Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology 2017.

Self Love #1 | Jason Crawford

If I put a thong on or a jockstrap and let my
thighs spill out from them, do not tell me to
wash them away in jean or sweat pants. My
body beautiful like a 7pm sunset in
Maryland, like the 3rd scoop of ice cream
dripping down the middle finger, like a field
of fucking daisies decapitated by the wind,
like I been known how this story should end.
Me loving me for me and ready to fight a
bitch that says otherwise. This body is a
temple built in soft sand, a place I let others
in to worship.

 


Jason B. Crawford is black, bi-poly-queer, and a damn force of nature. In addition to being published in online literary magazines, such as High Shelf  Press, BeLightFilled, Poached Hare, Royal Rose, and Kissing Dynamite, he is the Chief Editor  for The Knight’s Library. Jason is also the recurring host poet for Ann Arbor Pride. Forthcoming works will be in The Amistad and Augur.

Website: JasonBCrawford.com
Instagram: jasonbcrawford
Twitter handle:  @jasonbcrawford
Facebook page: By Jason B. Crawford

 

Hangover Prophecy | Westley Heine

when all the graves sprout seeds
when knotted eyes are in the trees
when the stars are washed away by cities

when the skulls hatch
& the sun blinks
& the artic tide comes in
all that we’ve loved and forgotten
will come back to claim us

 


Westley Heine is a writer, multimedia artist, and former bandleader of Cousin Bones. He is known for his geometric painting Infinigon and documentaries Poetry in Action and Trail of Quetzalcoatl, which has a companion book of poetry now available. He has been the featured poet at the original Poetry Slam at the Green Mill in Chicago. Publications of and about his work have been in The Chicago Reader, Conscious Choice, Chicago Tribune Magazine, and CC&D magazine. He grew up in Wisconsin, was educated in Chicago, and bummed from New York to Mexico to California. He now resides with his wife in Los Angeles.  According to Heine: “In no particular order I’ve been a taxi dispatcher, a roadie, a deliveryman, a squatter, a street musician, a grocery clerk, a chambermaid, a novelist, a blues singer, a painter, a metal head, a Boy Scout, an insurance investigator, a jailbird, a farmhand, sold tickets to the symphony, sold plasma, been unemployed, and been a filmmaker. Life is always creating new characters within myself, but always a writer.”  Instagram: @westleyheine