by Indira Allegra
He bends down to look
under my dress to see
what he thinks is young pussy
that brown fat
he does not know
there is a tumor growing here
a mutation between us
that leads to rapid
orderly proliferation of
what my name is
how much it cost
to suck this
soft tissue tumor
if I date brothas
if I can spread it
greater than a size of six centimeters
so he can taste it
do a threesome
if I got babies
if I want them
how I should be grateful
for his attention
most commonly found in
but also in children
of his lobulated desire
below the surface of my skin
his craving fatted
pressing my left ovary face down
into the crotch of city blocks
that talk in tumors
safe routes I want worsened
into blood vessels that feed
the heavy danger in my hip
growing in crosswalks and curbs
the fight or flight response
to his slippery palms
around the lump
Indira Allegra is a poet and interdisciplinary artist whose work explores forms of queer intimacy, text, trauma and racial identity through performance, video works and handwoven textiles. A 2012 Lambda Literary Fellow and Voices at VONA Alum, she has contributed works to “25 for 25: An Anthology of Works by 25 Outstanding Contemporary LGTB Authors”, “Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art and Thought”, “Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two Spirit Literature”, “Konch Magazine” and “make/shift Magazine” among others. Indira reads and performs work in the Bay Area and New York City. Her experimental videopoems have screened at film festivals internationally. In the Bay Area, Indira’s textile works have shown at the Alter Space and College Avenue Galleries. She is currently completing her first collection of poems entitled Indigo Season.
photo by Vagawi
by Sarah Bushman
Chainsaw pins of
runs over my wrist
I was cutting a pear
reminded me when
I used to do it
Today is the day
For dead flowers
Even Grandma thinks so
Spread the love
Let it out
Shake a fist
at all the men/women
We’ve been vessels for
Went to a place
Touched the sky
kissed a prince
that wasn’t you
You pumped your hips
against my thigh
stirred the taste
Vomit in my mouth
Acidic love hate
I could spit
Sarah Bushman wrote a a goth girls poem you would take out of a high school journal–in order to celebrate the holiday Valentine’s Day. Or to not celebrate it, because that’s what its doing. It’s encouraging people to embrace their inner rebellion, hopefully.
photo by Phil.Manker
by Mary Paynter Sherwin
Unless he looked,
before meeting you,
he still thinks of me in Boston.
Maybe he tells you this.
Seeing you two in the park,
I decide not to say hello,
hold it’s been so long
like a solitaire in my pocket.
He’s gained the weight
of the child we never got
around to having.
I am an honest woman.
Half of what you know
was never true,
the other half
is too kind.
Mary Paynter Sherwin’s work is heavily influenced by her knowledge and love of science, religion, and art. Her work has appeared most recently in Drash: Northwest Mosaic, Unswept, and Sparkle & Blink. She was also recently named one of the Northwest’s most innovative poets by Rattapallax. Mary holds an MFA in poetry and will be teaching a January Term class at Saint Mary’s College of California on the influence of copying. She lives in Oakland with her husband, David.
photo by zoetnet
by Asma Abdi
“Ali, garbage is future, Quit that goddamn oil refinery, Come to Tehran. Come to our garbage
business, The south isn’t your place.”
“I can’t decide now, Everything depends on the factory…”
“Listen, Oil will finish someday, but garbage is perpetual. Don’t be so foolish.”
“I…I really can’t decide, Mohammad, … You know …I like Tehran, but it`s the capital. The rents
“Come on, Tehran’s streets are paved with gold. People jump into dustbins and just like stray
cats they earn everything they want… , They earn cartons and plastics… they earn money.”
“I… I really can’t decide dude, You know… If I want to go to Tehran, I need a place to live…
and with these rents… ”
“For god`s sake Ali, Forget about the rents for a sec. This morning, I sold my cartons for
80,000 Tomans… Do you understand… 80,000 Tomans…”
“It`s good… but…”
“No buts dear, Just… just take a look at your face, what are those wrinkles around your eyes?
You are just 30. What are you doing in that damn wilderness, having no good food, no good
water, no good women, for what?”
“I… I really can’t decide now, I need to think.”
“Think, but don`t say no.”
Garbage…Garbage… Always garbage, I was sick of everything about This garbage business,
and Mohammad; my dear husband, was the head of this business. It was one of his impressive
abilities to relate everything to garbage. I wished I’d never suggested him talking to Ali. I knew
Ali, he hated garbage too.
Ali was one of our very few best friends who lived in one of southern cities. He was one of
those guys who choose, willingly or unwillingly, to go forward step by step; cautious in my
word… Coward in Mohammad’s, but now for the first time in our common life, whatever he was;
cautious or coward, wasn’t the matter of importance really. We agreed to choose Ali as a key for
all of our problems.
“Oh…Gentlemen, forget about garbage for a sec,” I broke in to change the subject. “First tea,
then business.” I said to Mohammad smiling in a way he knew I was angry.
“Oh, darling. We don’t have to gulp boiling tea. We don’t need a full bladder to take a
pregnancy test. Do we?” Mohammad said, grinning first at Ali, then at me.
I blushed. Why was he talking about the test in front of Ali? A stranger man?
I went to bathroom. Mohammad was still speaking.
I sat down on the toilet, looking at my pregnancy test. There were a lot of words on the whole
package in English. I looked for its Persian direction. There wasn’t any, only a small paper stuck
on the foreign words: “urinate directly onto the test stick for about five seconds.”
I`d drunk my tea so fast to fill my bladder up quickly. I really wanted to put an end to it. I was
vomiting for two days.
I didn’t know If I liked it positive or negative. I began to count 1,2,3,4,… the first day we’d
come in this apartment I`d counted the steps just like that 1, 2,3,4,… I never understood if I
liked our new apartment or not. It was too decent for a woman whose husband’s favorite subject
Five seconds was over. I put the lid of the test back quickly as if a baby, right in that very
moment, wanted to jump out of that piss-stained stuff suddenly. Everything about that probable
baby was to come to light by pee, Just in ten minutes. I burst into laugh.
I shacked my ass in the mirror, as always. It was one of the good things about our new
apartment. A big mirror in bathroom is a real bright side of life. I could see all of my body in it.
Why were we in that apartment? In that expensive neighborhood? That was’t our place for sure.
Ali was shocked when he saw the luxury and it was right. Shocked people scares me to death,
especially when they are right. We shouldn’t have left our previous neighborhood, but
Mohammad believed that we could live in every neighborhood we wanted, because it was
Mohammad’s only motto that the life expenses of a neighborhood is equal with the price of
garbage of that neighborhood.
I turned the running faucet off. I heard Mohammad again, He was still speaking.
“Don’t worry about rents man, we are friends, you can live with us Ali, In this apartment, we
have one extra room; we can pay the rent fifty-fifty, ok? I assure you, garbage of this
neighborhood is gold.”
Such an idiot, He was begging nearly. He was ruining all the plan. I couldn’t take it anymore,
I ran in the room. Mohammad was still speaking.
“Let`s go to the balcony, I want to water my flowers.” I cut in to stop him lecturing, smiling at
I had many roses on our balcony. I thought They might change Ali`s mind about living with
us. They were wild, beautiful and tempting. We should have shown him the apartment at first,
instead of talking.
“Look this one Ali, I planted it myself.” I smiled at Ali.
“Your flowers make me sad,” Ali said, looking at tall apartments all around us.
“Let’s stay awake tonight, The sunrise is wonderful in this balcony,” I said, smiling at Ali.
Ali was saying nothing. He was saying nothing more and more. If Ali didn`t accept to live
with us, we had to give the apartment back. I wanted those wild roses destroyed, especially those
I had planted myself.
I was about to vomit again. I ran to the bathroom. Ali and Mohammad ran after me. In my
stomach, there was nothing but tea.
“Why is the package of your pregnancy test on the floor?” Mohammad shouted. “Its carton,
you know how much does it worth?” He put his precious carton into the trash can.
My eye’s caught the test. I’d forgotten about checking my results.
Positive or negative? I chose in the last moment. No differences… naturally.
There was no sign on it. Neither Positive nor negative. I pulled the package from the trash
can and checked the Persian direction again: Test should be read in ten minutes, because all of the signs will be cleared after that.
Asma Abdi is a writer and a journalist from Iran. Her work has appeared in 2 languages; Persian and English, in some Iranian and Non-Iranian magazines. She started writing in English two years ago and one of her works named “All about my mother’s razor” appeared in March, 2013 issue of “Barebacklit.” She has 2 BA in Persian literature and Law and an MA in human rights, All from the University of Tehran. These days she is working on a novel, “Forever Madam Bovary.”
photo by MarkWallace
Alexandra Naughton is a San Francisco Bay Area author, originally from Philadelphia. Her debut book of poetry, I Will Always Be Your Whore: Love Songs for Billy Corgan was recently published by Punk Hostage Press. She runs the popular website Tarista Explains It All, as well as the Be About It zine, reading series, and now an e-book publisher. We sent her some questions following her recent Bay Area launch events in San Francisco and Oakland.
Q: Congratulations on your book launch. What inspired you to write I Will Always be Your Whore?
AN: Winter, insecurity, living with someone and longing for something else, and solitude.
Q: Are you happy with the way the book came together? Is there anything you would do differently now?
AN:I still can’t believe I made this. Some of the poems are embarrassing for me to read now, but I think that sometimes happens to me when I’m working on new material, the older stuff is just like, “wow I used to really worry about this.”
Q: How do you know when you’re done writing a poem?
AN: When the urge to vomit passes.
Q: Does Billy Corgan know about your book? If not, why not?
AN: I contacted the venue he owns in Chicago, Madame Zuzu’s Tea House, about possibly doing a reading there. They were not into it, but they wished me the best of luck in my future endeavors.
Q: Can you explain about syncing the poems with songs from Smashing Pumpkins? Were these the songs that inspired the poems, the songs you listened to while writing them, or are we intended to yell or whisper your lines over the music? If the latter, should readers expect a Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon convergence?
AN: I was listening to a lot of Smashing Pumpkins while writing the book. I listened to live performance and studio albums almost constantly, whenever I was in front of my computer, writing and editing, and whenever I had the chance to listen to my ipod, on the train with a pen in hand and a notebook in my lap. The songs inspired the poems and served as company for me while I was writing them. I was alone a lot, and writing the poems made me feel lonelier, so playing the Dublin live performance of “Blank Page” on repeat was really comforting to me. Those swooning guitars.
I haven’t tried the Pink Floyd/Oz experiment yet, but I’ve been meaning to. I really would like to do a live performance with the songs playing in the background. Maybe one of my more musically talented friends will accompany me.
Q: How does one remain vulnerable and take risks in such a cynical world? Or should one even bother?
AN: The world fucking sucks and we probably shouldn’t bother to do anything because it feels like there literally is no point, but that would be an extremely futile experience and I’d rather expose my wounds to something acidic and feel something even if that something is awful rather than laying around in my bedroom and wondering what could be. I’m a masochist. I embarrass myself constantly and show people stuff that I should probably just keep to myself but I can’t stop. I think it’s innate.
Q: What is Punk Hostage Press?
AN: Punk Hostage Press is a nonprofit independent publisher where “all rights belong to the artist” and “the publisher/editor is a vessel for the work to be disseminated.” There is an emphasis on publishing the work of writers involved in social and environmental justice, and Punk Hostage donates books to women’s shelters, jails, prisons, homeless shelters, and treatment programs, in an effort to give back to those survivors. All rights of the work belong to the artist, as they should. I appreciate Punk Hostage’s attitude and aesthetic, coming from the do-it-yourself zine tradition myself. When PHP first approached me, it was to congratulate me on my zine. Iris and Razor, editors and rulers of PHP, were thrilled that young people was still making paper zines.
Q: What is Be About It?
AN:Be About It is my little literary zine that I put out twice a year. I solicit work from writers and artists whom I admire, and receive open submissions from folks who have heard of the zine over the web and around the Bay. I stared Be About It zine in 2010 when I was unemployed and had nothing else to do, and starting my own magazine was something I had always wanted to do, so I took the opportunity and just started, not really having any idea of how to operate a publication. It’s been trial and error all the way along, but it’s been fun. The next issue is themed “rich” and will be coming out soon.
Q: Can you talk about your own press?
Be About It Press (http://beaboutitpress.tumblr.
Q: What does Alt Lit mean to you?
AN: Alt lit, as far as I care, is writing published on the internet. There is a small community online that designates itself as “alt lit,” but there are communities of writers all over the internet. I don’t think about it too much, but I try to use the resources available in the communities to introduce people to my work and to become familiar with other writers.
Q: Do you have any advice for other writers?
AN: Write. Don’t put everything you do online, just the stuff that really makes you say ‘wow.’ Edit. Proofread. Edit again. Delete a bunch of shit. Does it sound good when you say it out loud? Don’t be afraid, but don’t be pompous either. Be nice. Don’t be too much of an opportunist or social climber. People can smell opportunists from several yards away and won’t want to fuck with you, unless you already have hella hot connections. I guess if you already have hella hot connections, don’t worry about your writing too much, but try not to piss people off. This is your life now.
Q: What are you working on now?
AN: I’m working on a compilation of poems and short stories called ‘Sad Storys.” That’s the working title. I might change it.
You can purchase Alexandra’s book, I Will Always Be Your Whore: Love Songs for Billy Corgan here.
by Matt Carney
You must be right:
I guess it’s jealousy
when I’m too drunk
so it’s my fists in
and shit stompers
shit stomping him,
weak lipped brofriend.
I’d be honest about this
could I recall.
It’s your story now, not mine.
Maybe true, too:
be how I scratched
your name in belts,
sharpie on walls,
poems I wrote
all about you,
the world to keep
I know I’ll lose
like I’ll lose you;
to sudden drift.
I’ll build our time unrecalled
When Matt Carney is not corrupting fresh minds as an after-school teacher, he takes trips, composes cyborg rock music, and pursues his MFA in fiction. His current projects include Igniograph, a near-future novel meditating on terrorism and technology, and Empires, a concept album about an unraveling man. Matt’s recent fiction has appeared in Inkwell, A cappella Zoo and Transfer Magazine. He was the co-curator of the Velvet Revolution reading series at San Francisco State University.
photo by Hryck
by Frederick Pollack
The border of the soccer field
has been refurbished. Foam
at chest height bounces teammates back
unhurt to the cheers of moms.
His own expression is sedate,
though his effort is, of course,
a hundred percent. And will be
at choir practice, karate,
chess, whatever fun
is required. Later
he rests at screens whose violence,
however Mom regrets it, also
teaches worthy lessons.
Everything can vanish:
she, friends, SUV,
father, all the electronics.
It’s how things are; to be
takes so much power,
is subject to blackouts, bills, fights, a lawyer …
There is a bomb in things.
Depressed therefore but not
forlorn, he has discovered,
like his mother, optimism of the will,
which Antonio Gramsci
thought the Revolution
would require, not the bourgeoisie.
Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both published by Story Line Press. Has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Representations, Magma (UK), Bateau, Chiron Review, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, etc. Recent Web publications in Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Camel Saloon, Kalkion, Gap Toothed Madness. He is adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University.
photo by bethcoll
by William Taylor Jr.
It wasn’t so long ago
that this Haight Street bar
was a dark and rundown
punk rock dive
beautiful in its way
with a jukebox as good as
any in town
a perfect haven
from the San Francisco afternoon
from the mean-faced runaways
and sad-eyed addicts
dealing and begging on
the crowded lonely sidewalks
but at some point I guess
they raised the rent
or the owner lost the lease
and for months the place
was all boarded up
like a ramshackle tomb
I went by last week
and it was open again
transformed into a generic, brightly lit
hotspot for tourists
big ugly windows
letting in the all the terrible
light of the day
all the old magic stripped away
not even the old juke was spared
we live in a world
without mercy, conscience
it tears down our love
and kicks our hearts
out into these awful streets
dismantles our lives
like shut down buildings
replacing every beautiful thing
with a sadness
too deep and wide
William Taylor Jr lives and writes in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. His poems and stories have been widely published in the independent press in publications including Poesy, The Chiron Review and The New York Quarterly. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
photo by brian hillegas
by Nate Waggoner
Be careful of all those boys
I’m sure I’ll see you during summer and following
Years. Probably down
At Jessup’s. Have a great time. Love,
I didn’t see much of you
This year, but we did
Have some good times
In P.E. last year. I’m not very
Good at writing
In these things
I think that you will always make
An impression on me
Because you seem so nice and easy
And because you seem so innocent
But I know you aren’t.
Anyway, have a good year at CalPoly
Doing all that crazy stuff
They do there.
Seeing you as little as I did
Reminded me how much fun you are.
God, I could just kill myself
For not going out
And spending more time
With good minded people,
Now it’s too late.
Well, have fun out there;
Keep your head straight
(I know it is now)
If you are around,
Remember I probably am too
And that giving one step would be all it needs
And we’d know each other a lot.
Judy you are almost
As crazy as I am.
I hope that’s a complament.
Anyways take care of yourself
Because I would like to see you sometime.
If you like champagne
Come to the park at 9 a.m.
Nate Waggoner is a contributor to KQED Pop and the author of a comic book called “A Lifetime of Free Haircuts.” His writing has appeared in SF Weekly, Sparkle & Blink, thefanzine.com, and MilkMade. He has read at KQED’s New Kids on the Block Litcrawl event, Quiet Lightning, Bang Out, 851, Under the Influence, and Write Club SF. He and his ex-girlfriend host a romance advice podcast called “Invitation to Love,” which is available on iTunes. He is an MFA candidate in Fiction at San Francisco State University. The contents of this poem are taken from a 1977 yearbook he found in Fruitvale.
photo by milesgehm
by Séamas Carraher
Lord of abandoned cars
that burn like tigers
waking the night with “shoutin’
as if freedom was rolling
vicious drunk down the avenue.
Lord of this low wage job that
Lord of all the marvellous machinery
that flew the TV to Mars
but they can’t make an instrument
to hear the cries at night
of the women and children being beaten,
can’t loosen the knots that’s
strangling us all
can’t fix the breaking bones
or cure this sad man’s sorrow,
can’t calm the anxious faces.
Lord of the shiny suits
they fly into this warzone
stuff them with shopwindowdummies
while every day “you eat shite”.
Lord of peace process and government
Lord of court and justice,
Lord of architect and engineer,
Lord of words and paper,
it’s snowin’ on everyone’s dreams,
we’re drownin’ in bullshit.
Lord of the tongue i once had
torn from my mouth
in case i say something simple
and it all collapses on my head.
“…Lord of the prescription drug
I borrowed the money to pay for
that wakes the dawn with normality
and keeps the traffic flowin’
keeps me from screamin’…”
Lord now of Ballyogan, and Baghdad
and Port au Prince.
This truth like a map nailed to your face
this ugly truth
that tears everything in two
it’s too late for peacekeepers
its too late to keep the lid on the pot
we’re stewin’ inside
and its never goin’ to get better.
Lord of the footstep,
one foot after the other
in all this place
as if a prayer could escape in time
so someone could send
the seventh cavalry
“…over the hill, Tonto,
to reskya ya…”
Séamas Carraher was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1956. He lives on the Ballyogan estate, in south County Dublin, at present. Recent publications include poems in The Camel Saloon, The Blue Hour, Full of Crow, BOYSLUT, Rusty Truck, THE SHOp, (Ireland), the Rusty Nail, Dead Beats, Red River Review, Word Riot, The Junk Lot Review, Dead Flowers, Pyrokinection, Dead Snakes, Carcinogenic Poetry, Napalm & Novacain, ditch, Bone Orchard Poetry, Istanbul Literary Review and Pemmican. Previously his work has been published in Left Curve (No. 13, 14 & 20), Compages, Poetry Ireland Review, the Anthology of Irish Poetry and the Irish Socialist (newspaper).
photo by Kevin Dooley