God’s a Monster
Colors make no sense. Gods and monsters chase me all the way to school. I have a lil’ sister and brother, Imani and Dominque. I’m the oldest. I’m 11 and in 5th grade. We walk to school together. We’re taught to take the main roads with no stops. But, our teachers instruct us to run, not walk, through the alleys spoiled with pipes or we won’t make it to school on time. Pipe alleys suppress the projects like a spider web trapped by a single pane window. I overheard my teachers saying that it caught my friends, Ebony and Marquis. They’re going to be stuck in the pipe until they turn 18. My mom called the landlord to fix it. We haven’t seen him in a year. The electricity was turned off in our building. I remember because a ghost pinched my birthday candle’s wish and he appeared. I colored a piece of a scab that fell off while I was talking to the yellow ring hovering in my bathtub. I imagined that an angel died taking a bath and left its halo. The piece of the scab bobbled on the murky water like a ship. I took it to school, put it under a microscope and saw all of us; mom, dad, Imani and Dominque, and me having dinner together. The colors don’t match. We read, “The Diary of Ann Frank,” last week. My classmates make fun of me when I don't have any food to eat for lunch. I wore these clothes yesterday. I cut my finger on the spider webs face once. The blood dyed it red. I imagined what it would be like to be a spider trapped by geometric shapes. I like math and science. I want to cure poor people problems. People don't realize I no longer have a mom or a dad. Dad been gone since Imani been born. Went in my mom’s bedroom to say goodbye before school and there was a blue smell. I touched her and she didn't move. Her body was cold brown. I left and came back and she hadn’t gotten up. I knocked on my neighbor’s door, but no one answered. My mom’s gone now. But she still lives under the sheets. Social services haven’t come got us, yet. I take care of us now. At night, after putting Imani and Dominque to bed, I hide in the hole behind the bathtub and act like I am Ann Frank. During recess, I ask my teacher to stay inside. I make a fort with the desks and act like I am in my hole behind the bathtub because that is where I feel human. I wish my story ended like Ann Frank. I don’t want to be white. I just want to be saved. God’s a monster who is the color of the rainbow and he hugged me today.
A flower altar chokes death’s breath from attacking the air, I kneel
to crawl my fingers through the kinky hair of someone’s son.
I touch his face erased and slip through his eyes to see – life
flash briefly, it was dark, then light slickly seeped through hole
fires of internal war that show a Black male 25 riddled with heart
–break. Thirst drank from his throat then coddled his carotid artery.
We heard time fading, a muffled voice caught in his chest said, “I’m sorry,
the man with no face, no name is no more.” I climbed out a tear in his hand,
fell backwards, prone on the median, with survival running
down my face evolved, able to breathe through bullet holes.
Rashaad Thomas is a husband, father, USAF Veteran, poet, Voices of Our Nation’s Art Foundation (VONA/Voices) Alum, who resides in South Phoenix, AZ. He is a Spring 2017 MacDowell Colony Fellow. His work can be found in a number of publications, most notably in the book Trayvon Martin, Race, and American Justice: Writing Wrong, Heart Journal Online, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, The DeColonizer Magazine, Failed Haiku: A Journal of English Senryu, and is forthcoming in the Columbia Poetry Review and others. He is also a member of the Gutta' Collective based in Phoenix, a group committed to sharing a Black and Brown narrative through art and poetry to give a voice to the silent, isolated, and marginalized.
A recent piece of his on the policing of Black Art:
Dear Risk Dear Grace Dear Rope Dipped In Wax Dear Thermochromic Ink, Dear Deconstructed Disco Ball Dear Alice Dear echo, echo: What vibrates here is something co-constitutional, a contract exhibited then collapsed b/t oppressor and oppressed. What vibrates is the lesson taught & then what to do with it since “the story of history has changed for us” (Vijay Prashad @theGoldaMeir Library3/3/17). Thank you for your resonations, your interrogations into, positioning, wonder, and woe. –yours, Breath
I offer to Alice a draft of my five-minute soundscape titled "Poem for Sunayana Dumala." It uses bits of recording from Vijay Prashad’s talk at the Scripps College Humanities Institute in November 2016 in which he reads some lines from a poem by Zarlasht Hafeez to begin to say we need to “accumulate for use stories of suffering” when we think about “how to tell the story of the global war on terror from the standpoint of its victims.” You'll hear bits, too of testimony from Dumala, Dexta Daps singing a refrain in MIA's song, Foreign Friend, some original poetry, the start of a 911 call from a bartender in Clinton, Missouri and bits from other news.
*video/soundscape mentioned above was exhibited for echo, echo closing reception- please check back soon for its internet debut...
Soham Patel is a Kundiman fellow, poet, and musician. Two of her chapbooks, 'and nevermind the storm' (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs), and 'Riva: A Chapter' (kitchen-shy press) came out in 2013. Her work has been featured at Fact-Simile Editions, Copper Nickel, Denver Quarterly< and various other places. She has an MA from Western Washington University's English Department, an MFA from the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh, and is currently a PhD Candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
She's presented, On the Poetics of Anguish, Gender, and Variant Constructions, Thinking its Presence: Race and Creative Writing Conference, From Trauma to Catharsis, Performing the Asian Avant-Garde, and On the Poetics of Both and Neither: a conversation with Ching-In Chen, Bhanu Kapil, Cheena Marie Lo, Soham Patel, and Mg Roberts.
Savannah Valentine Oliker is a poet based in Seattle, Washington. Her work explores the complexity of gender and the importance of anomalies. Work from her first poetry manuscript is published in Cosmonauts Avenue, and she was recently awarded a writer's residency at Vermont Studio Center for Spring 2017. She received her BA in Poetry and English Literature from UC Santa Cruz and her MA in Sexuality Studies from San Francisco State University. Her second book focuses on family histories and the relationship between the real and the imagined. In her free time, she helps curate shows for local musicians and artists.
*Works in the Regardless series are urgent one-day installations with urgent written responses. Exhibition organizers Natalie Martínez and Molly Mac hope to create a printed publication that documents the unique and powerful works created in this exhibition series.
THAT ASS IS ETCHED INTO THE UNIVERSE FOREVER
Vibrations are infinite, so every time you slap an ass, your appreciation of that ass is etched into the universe forever. This intersection of sex and math is where I’d expect to find the erogenous parts of concepts, but somehow they are nowhere to be seen. Every object designed by a human is in some way a device for intimacy with the abstract. The longer I live, the more convinced I am that every object is invisibly but outrageously effective, except for manicured lawns. Every time you obsessively mow your lawn, the realm of the abstract is waiting for you to fall asleep so it can masturbate.
It’s places like this, surrounded by edible sculptures, ceramic pelvises, and pieces of other planets, that I think most of my stalker. When I was a teenager I showed my mom a drawing my first girlfriend gave me of Kermit the frog with two cacti growing out of his head and the caption: “I fuck pigs.” My mom said her friends would have been too afraid of offending each other to exchange things like that.
In places my stalker would never venture, I’m most aware I’m being pursued, places like the parking garage where my first girlfriend and I covered an office chair with tinsel and spun each other around until it collapsed, wondering if it was art. We slept in the same bed every night for a year before I even got to touch her tits, which for that year, like me, were composed entirely of wondering. Now, both of us having all the sex we want with people far better suited for us, we sit in bars talking about insurance.
When we met we played Judas Priest on screeching 45 under a table, eating cake with our hands that we had baked secret messages into. I wanted to kiss her like I wanted my next breath, but I couldn’t—I felt something bad might happen, like somehow I would be followed.
“Why does this even exist?” read the caption below photo of a flower on social media. The caption was a joke, but in an age when everything has a bird on it, the sentiment was refreshing. Birds are probably great, but the best peeps are silent, be they glimpses of nudity or marshmallows. Does anyone ornamented with images of wolves and owls even know these animals are not marshmallows? To be honest, the only time I’ve been totally convinced birds aren’t marshmallows was when I witnessed two male pigeons mating and was legitimately turned on. Directly obtaining a resource from another organism was so alarming I had to dress up as a combine harvester immediately.
They'll tell you it doesn't matter, to hurry up, just put something on, WE HAVE TO GO and then measure your humanity by the length of your hemline, assess your coherence, your respectability, tell you to pump it up, be serious, BE SEXY, hide your body, GIRL THAT'S TACKY, no one will love you if you don't LOOK RIGHT, knowing full well that there is no right in a realm reduced to frivolity but expected to comfort them, to soothe their fragile eyes cracked by centuries of funneling our bodies into exquisite graves.
We learn their lies and serve them wrapped in soft chiffon, pretending we haven't left pins tucked away.
Here, a bearer of peace, arms extended, gracing us with a spectrum of feeling, reflecting and dispersing the minutiae of our multitudinous selves. Here are the connecting threads, bridging between worlds, both earthly and divine.
Trace me a map in blood of the family I will never know, but hold in my soul, not owned, but tied by an inherent cosmic glamour. A kaleidoscope of suffering can be seen in the sun, no matter where you stand. Say their names.
When was the last time you asked the earth how she feels?
Her resilience is evidenced in tiny miracles we are taught to loathe and cut down, as if there is no room for beauty. Adorn yourself with dirt and let it teach you what written history could not.
A relic is borne of another, a cycle of revolutions captured in a cross stitch. A legacy of fists. A lineage of hands.
Here is the dazzling pain of femininity, wounds marking the corporeal magic we have found among each other. Light candles for those who have given themselves, for fire can be generative and fecund. She wears her story, plaits forming pleats to give rise to regalia, an accordion archive of sisterhood generations deep, that will be read by many, translated clearly only to kin. To acknowledge the void is not to fail, but show compassion. Say their names.
A pearl of celebration marks also the finitude of life, found in the depths of a heart seeking.
We lose them to a violence reborn constantly and wonder if the union existed without it. If we taught our sons and brothers and fathers tenderness, might such constructions be requisite to ascending the columns of light to love?
Here are the waves of expanding hearts. They exist largely in fantasy: becoming more necessary each day.
DOROTHY HOWARD is a technology and media researcher, writer, and information activist. She focuses on digital labor, contemporary art, and online culture. Her first book of poetry, Troll, was published by Inpatient Press (2015). She is the Founder and Lead Editor of the Arachne webzine at arachne.cc.
where the crushed blue
where the tripped up tongue
where the devil’s claw
where the lunar garland
where the synched up shadows
where the treeless buzz
where the word used wrongly
where the copal depth
where the epitaph of sun
where the noise is debt
where the fault line
where the exhibition begins
where the eager perch
where the kindling fails
where the blade to cusp
where the stops short out
where the shirts tuck
where the earth tilts
where the first skin shakes off
where the shoulders
where the post feminists fuck
where the frequent fissure
where the plane casts shadows
where the smoldering sound
where the field in question
where the house met with cracks
where the black scuffed floor
where the colony atrophies
where they call it business casual
where they value the aesthetic effect of interruption, but not the subversive quality
where they crowd in with longing
where they reach a point
where they synch up the shadows
where they bury the crooked wing
where they flash their teeth
where they offer “interpretive data”
where they make good measures
where they weren’t about to go
where they claim the path of least resistance
where they call it good
where they leave their hooks
where they could offer no treatment
where they lost their disappointments
where they cut out the middle
where they left
where you led us to the rooftop
where your bobbed hair hit
where you lay it down
where you searched and found nothing
where you dress with half your heart
where you split the cells
where your profile looks aloof
where you kiss the palm tree
where you locate the knitting sensation
where you make repairs
where you stand out poorly
where you are dogged and sinister
where you intersect
where you call on a nation
where you sleep in a cloud of balled up masking tape
where you escape to and from
where you remember the three of them
where you heard them as they drank more tea
where you number the ways
where you raged, begged, wept
where you dotted all the letters
where you gave a handful
where you muzzle the light
where you left the rock you didn’t throw
where is the dusk marbling
where is the citation of looking
where is the jumping off point
where is a throaty sound
where is the least and worst
where is the heavy mask
where is the projection doubling
where is what they refer to as ideal
where is the fidgety automaton
where is the locus flagging
where is the pocket triangulating
where is the disease roaming
where is the sign of substance
where is the after all
where is the platform shaking
where is the hand that meets the swallow
where is the breath that capsizes the edges
where is the mind’s well of doubt
where is the wound and key
where is the humbler word
where is the road looking
-G. Jesiolowski, 2016
Amaranth Borsuk's most recent publication is As We Know (Subito, 2014), a book-length erasure collaboration with Andy Fitch. She is the author of Handiwork (Slope, 2012); and Between Page and Screen (Siglio, 2012), a book of augmented-reality poems created with Brad Bouse. Her intermedia project Abra, with Kate Durbin and Ian Hatcher, received an NEA-funded Expanded Artists’ Books grant and was recently issued as a limited-edition hand-made book and free iPhone and iPad app. A trade edition is forthcoming from 1913 Press. Her artist's books and interactive art have been exhibited widely, and a recent sound installation, Wave Signs, created with Carrie Bodle, is currently on display as part of Giant Steps: Artist's Residency on the Moon at King Street Station in Seattle. Borsuk's collaborative digital projects include The Deletionist, an erasure bookmarklet created with Nick Montfort and Jesper Juul; and Whispering Galleries, a site-specific LeapMotion interactive textwork for the New Haven Free Public Library. Borsuk received her Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California and served as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at MIT before joining the faculty of the University of Washington, Bothell, where she is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.
Thing was once a verb
The first thing you notice is the hum. Or throb. A blue-green, metallic sort of sound, with a nice subtle backbeat to it, the quiet oscillation of a mindless drone doing its thing, sometimes a little faster, sometimes a little slower, but if you close your eyes you can dance to it. In a sort of tripped-out spacey way. Like the noise of the ferry when you stand at the bow, the diesel engines pulsing and the hull cutting through the waves with their cross-rhythms, the foam piling up and spilling back, piling up and spilling back, the gulls hovering along beside.
You’re here alone. That’s important. You’re thinking about the overlooked, the quiet spaces just inside the frame, beside the object, where nothing’s happening, out of focus or just deflecting focus. All kinds of things occur to you. Detritus is a word that comes to mind. What’s here? Scraps of thread and fabric coiled fetus-like on a black surface. A pencil, a level, a banana. A framed object lies on the floor as if forgotten, or left for later. A step ladder, a set of shelves, a table with a measuring tape and sponge all stand out from the walls, awkward, inert. Tea kettle, cups, plastic trays, stray light.
Where do you go from here? The past is always possible—that private place full of these forgotten moments, interstices between events. The grassy, gravelly triangle between the highway and its on-ramp, say, with one young pine throwing a meager shade, where you waited years ago for some thing. The summer light washes out the memory like a photo overexposed. Smells are good. The scent of mildew past its prime, barely more than dust, that rises from the cushions on furniture inherited from other families, other lives, other claims to fame. A hint of paint or linseed oil, full of wisdom. Or snapshots: those mental images that persist for no good reason: a pyramid of sunlight framed by branches. A swirl of combat on a city street, seen through the hazy plastic of a Metro window.
Or do you go in? Through the inviting opening, into the story that waits just inside, just around the corner, behind the tear?
Or do you go up? Lifted by ideas, associations, the way that theory eats itself?
We make objects out of things. A shape, a color, a gesture of display.
A feminist approach to knowing the world always looks for resistance,
seeks out voices, dreams and survival strategies of the USEd.
Power is never completely paved smooth,
symmetrical unidirectional lines, containable, knowable or easily identifiable.
Never fully dominating, never complete.
kick to kidney
head to nightstand
skin ripped at the seam until it no longer feels like home
caught in and constructed by the interwoven logic of white supremacist heteronormative capitalist patriarchy.
Are you hurting now? Ohhhh, are you fucking hurting now?
what about the ladders?
To know the USEd as only products of the USEr,
a one-way street of clearly defined unchangeable relations
of innocent and non-innocent,
is not the best location or the best view
to radically re-alter the warp and weft of the grid.
Like forcefully satin stitching together two mop heads
into motionless uniformed compliance,
is also violent.