by Maisha Z. Johnson
attention, please. this is your cat speaking.
and i say it’s time to snap out of it.
you’ve felt lifeless as a lump of litter,
sulking in bed like the world has lost
all of its string. you’re forgetting
to connect with your pride of people,
and worse, you’re forgetting about me.
if it meant only answering
your yowling cell phone,
you wouldn’t need to be more
than this pile of blankets and sighs,
but now, this is your cat speaking,
and i say it’s time to get out of bed.
i admit, you make a good cushion,
a plump pillow of trapped body heat,
but i’ve got other needs, you know,
and you won’t even
raise a hand to scratch me,
won’t lift your head to my meow,
won’t even turn when i purr
to see why the hell i’m so happy.
well, i’m not. i’m not happy.
dammit, this is your cat speaking,
and to me it seems like someone’s
clawed out all your stuffing.
i shove my face against your lips,
and find them dry as kibble.
and if i didn’t know better,
i’d think you were crumbling,
but this is your cat speaking,
and i see you. i’ve seen you alone,
i’ve seen you nude, i’ve seen you
shielded by the armor of your solitude,
and i’ve seen you scooping my poop.
and maybe i’m just your cat speaking,
so i don’t know much about your sadness,
but for me it’s like this – i’m chasing a ball,
and it’s skidding toward the fridge. i know
it’s about to vanish into that dark abyss,
but do i try to stop it? no. i rush forward,
bat it along, and moments later,
i’m mewling for that lost ball.
now, i can always moan at the fridge,
can always paw underneath it,
and i’ll know
that ball is down there somewhere,
just beyond my claw’s reach.
so, stretch your arms like me,
and come on back to life –
please. this is your cat speaking,
and i say it’s time to snap the hell out of it
and feed me.
Maisha Z. Johnson is a queer writer and activist of Trinidadian descent. She studied creative writing at SFSU and recently earned an MFA in Poetry at Pacific University. She spends days working at Community United Against Violence (CUAV), developing transformative approaches with LGBTQ folks to heal from and end violence. She spends nights lifting up silenced voices on the page, and exploring the relationship between writing and social change, which she chronicles on her blog, Inkblot. Maisha has been a featured reader at events in the Bay Area, including Portuguese Artists Colony, where she won the live writing competition.
by Kayleigh Wanzer
Someone said you drank last night,
just one glass of wine, they said
then back to water.
I didn’t notice.
I wasn’t standing near you.
I don’t anymore.
But I heard you.
You were talking about your new girlfriend.
She’s young. She has short hair.
I bet she is just discovering riot girl.
Someone told me she wore butterfly wings
her entire freshman year of college.
She writes stories about you, you read them,
she submits them to The New Yorker.
I want to say “that’s adorable,”
I want to say, “how quirky.”
but I can’t figure out a way to sound less mean.
I heard you’ve already said “I love you,”
and I see you lying in bed, your hands in her hair,
her legs wrapped around your torso.
She probably fits next to your slight body perfectly.
Someone said you drank last night,
they mentioned it off hand, they looked surprised
when I reacted with concern.
They don’t know it’s never just one glass.
And she’s never seen you that kind
For her, you are always
on your best behavior.
I say happiness when I mean
For me, your heart had holes in it.
everything I put in
Kayleigh Wanzer is a graduate student in English Literature and Creative Writing at Binghamton University. I am the co-editor of Creative Nonfiction at Harpur Palate.
by Rose Theresa Booker
After Jill McDonough
The day I was sexually harassed I told Cindy how
three men came up behind me: one pinched my ass,
one called my cutie pie, and one winked his eye.
Cindy: Wait a minute, is that sexual harassment?
Or were they just flirting with you? Excellent argument.
Gilda pitied the fools: who uses their perfectly functional
hands to pinch cute butt cheeks? Aren’t we in a labor
shortage? He must be simple in the head.
And who comes up behind someone (besides in a porno)?
Missing the purpose, the pleasure of unsolicited sexual
contact? Dear Sexist Men, you should have stayed to see
the surprise bloom across my face, the skin turning redder
than a steak tomato: so provocative. You missed out
soliciting “favors,” me being shocked and appalled,
your hands stroking non-existing cocks.
Gilda and Cindy and Marge make fun of the Sexist Men,
and I hit the gym. I leg press 275 lbs. We discuss
scientific discoveries, political implications.
Not the offending hand, the single blinking eye,
sexually immature Neanderthals.
After the harassment we picked up disposable pads
at the Vegan shop next to the Planned Parenthood clinic,
waved at a nurse picking up coffee, her cream white scrubs.
Pink sang “I’m not here for your entertainment. You don’t
really want to mess with me tonight” … and bottles of vaginal
lube shinned from within their shelves, a thousand brands.
In Oakland it rains cute asses, pity-the-fools. Man-sized
dogs, roaming pussies with tag-less collars, Jack Daniel shots
stained with red lipstick, everyone’s pheromones are aglow.
Rose Theresa Booker is an SF Bay Area poet. The poems in her new collection represent various meditations on the private and public life. Where do they collide? What happens in that collision? She spends a lot of time thinking through these questions and hopes you enjoy these poems and that they bring some insight into your life.
by Jill Tydor
Sometimes when I think about you, I remember the time you brought me soup when I was sick. Sure, it was still in a can and came with a snack-sized package of complementary airline crackers. And you left it on my desk at work, not left on my doorstep in a cute little basket, or cooked for me at your house, where we would hangout on the couch watching that documentary about climbing Mount Everest. But, it buoyed me that soup. Pushed its way to the front of my mind, so that I thought about it more often than the times when you would hold my hand and talk about your ex-girlfriend. It’s strange to hold someone’s hand while they are talking about regret. I think I regret holding your hand then.
Sometimes when I think about you, I remember when you asked me to go for a moonlit hike in the early fall. I’m pretty sure you used the word moonlit. I’m also pretty sure that you neglected to mention that it would take seven hours. Or that we needed flashlights to navigate the rocky terrain, where I almost fell fifty feet into a cluster of dehydrated pine trees. I thought a lot about poetry while staring at the moon at 13,000 feet at one in the morning. And cursed you the entire trip down.
Sometimes when I think about you, I remember feeling so secure sleeping side-by-side, nestled tight, a million similes for things that fit. Until you wanted to be the little spoon. And I gave in. And wrapped my arms around you, reaching for something, but feeling nothing except awkward and vulnerable. Sometimes it’s empowering to fight the gender stereotypes (like making a girl soup when she is sick), and sometimes a girl just wants to be the little spoon.
Sometimes when I think about you, I smile. And sometimes when I think about you, I don’t. Most of the time, I just try not to think about you. Because when I think about you, I think about the person you let me be. I think about cold soup and clammy hands and confessions of regret intertwined with proclamations of affection. I think about how much I compromised and second-guessed myself and hid who I really was. Sometimes when I think about you, I get so angry. And for a long time, I was angry with you. I was angry at the narcissism and constant game of push and pull and the stories that ran in circles to the same unhappy conclusion. And then I was angry with myself. For putting up with it all, for not having that same sense of self-preservation, for not thinking about what would really make me happy, for thinking happiness was a myth.
It took three years and me moving away, and you moving away, and not answering the phone when you called ‘just to chat’ on long-distance car trips. And not thinking about soup or public access television or sitting on the couch on your front porch to the sounds of crickets and the summer sky. And instead finding bike rides through the park, or days reading on the dunes, or someone to listen over steaming cups of coffee. So, really I just wanted you to know, that I’m happy.
Jill Tydor is a Southern poet and recent graduate of the MFA in Writing Program at California College of the Arts.