Storage Bin

To live between borders

Oscillating needle prick

   Constant shuttle to

Back       Forward       Center

the      bridge      seems      long

yet

thereisnoseparationofideas

Compartmentalize

Grief hides under left armpit

Fear likes the sock drawer

“hang joy here”

We are unwhole

S   e   p   a   r   a   t   e

absorbing every speck and grit

yet none

We belong to every/thing

and no/thing at once

We rely on this

for an opening


Melissa Eleftherion was born & raised in Brooklyn. A high school dropout, she went on to earn an MFA in Poetry from Mills College and an MLIS from San Jose State University. She is the author of huminsect, prism maps, Pigtail Duty, the leaves the leaves, green glass asterisms, and several other chapbooks. Her first full-length collection, field guide to autobiography, is forthcoming from H_NGM_N. Founder of the Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange, Melissa lives in Mendocino County where she works as a Teen Librarian, teaches creative writing, & curates the LOBA Reading Series at the Ukiah Library. More of her work can be found @ http://www.apoetlibrarian.wordpress.com.

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On discovering Afrofuturism

The future of me is blurry.
I risk everything
in becoming
my real self, bloody
veins and tissue pumping
out of me like lava.

I slept, curled up,
waiting for Mother
        to hold me,
sew me back together.
She used to hold us all,
in ancient and sacred spaces
She told us: baby,
you are infinitely worthy.

But now the skin under my skin
ripples, disturbing
the green grass I planted,
my well-kept lawn
        vaporized
not all at once, but slowly.

The born self is gone,
turned to fragile rock.
A new age, a new dawn,
the future now,
is coming.


Renee Christopher earned her B.A. in English and Communications from the University of California, Santa Barbara which she uses to sell pizza in her hometown. She can generally be found petting strangers’ dogs. You can find her tweeting about representation, entertainment, and working in customer service @jademoonsun on Twitter.

Apology, for E

We couldn’t foresee SCOTUS 2015
though the boy who took me from you
turned my left breast into a cracked diviner’s ball,
the purple ring of dental bruises like fissures in the crystal.

And when he dragged me into the woods
to a blanket he’d prepared,
I wasn’t thinking of a band around your ring finger.
But I did pretend, as he made me choke him
down, that the black eclipsing my vision
was the sleep you and I had ferreted away

in each other’s arms—waking up before dawn
to slide to our opposite sides of the bed
just before one of our parents cracked the door.
And after that summer, you wouldn’t speak to me,

so I walled up the part of myself that had pinned you
down on the floor in a puddle of writhing—my name
a sound among others, floating up into the cheap wallpaper
and disappearing. Like you, I pretended
we were never us. I pretended to be one of them,

with the thick lies coating my skin like flu fever,
because hate is a virus that can’t leave you
once you’ve contracted it, once you’ve
been pulled straight down on a pillar of boy
by your hips, and just as the blood takes a while
to slide out, so too did I take years to understand

that wanting both shouldn’t have made me throw up my arms
and surrender to violence. As one covers the mirror
at funerals with a veil, I tried to forget you, but really
I was trying to lose myself. As if a deluge
of aftershave and cocks could erase the spirit.

As if you and I shared what we did
on an island we couldn’t map blind.
As if swimming to the mainland
made me strong, not craven.


Kristi Carter has poems published or forthcoming in journals such as Spillway Magazine, So to Speak, CALYX Journal, and Hawai’i Review. She is originally from the foothills of North Carolina. She currently lives in Nebraska.

Etiquette

Ladies,

                    when you leave your house this morning,
Remember two words:       Thank You.

Say “thank you” to the man outside of the bodega
who says “good morning” to all the pretty girls.

Say “thank you” to the guy that eloquently
acknowledges your well sculpted ass with a “Dammmn Gurl”
             (why else would you dress like that?)

Say “thank you” to the guy at the bar that leans over his friend
and whispers, loud enough for you to hear, all the ways he’d like to
bend your body.

Say “thank you” to the family friend who told you at seven
that      kisses made breasts grow bigger.

Say thank you to the countless men who have grabbed you
on the subway                            in night clubs
at bus stops
(our bodies have never been our own).

Say THANK YOU                       THANK YOU                       THANK YOU

Say “thank you” because silence is subversion,              ‘conceited bitch.’


Natalie N. Caro is a Bronx-born poet and the 2013 recipient of the Bronx Recognizes Its Own Award in Poetry. She holds a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy from Lehman College/CUNY and an MFA in Poetry from City College/CUNY where she selected as one of the first recipients of the Creative Writing Fellowship. Sometimes, she swears that school saved her, but then she thinks about colonization of the mind and feels some type of way. Natalie likes to tweet at bars about teeth and trauma. Follow her and her scattered thoughts on twitter @scatteredstanza.

1200 Generations

1200 generations a slave

40 days and 40 nights

   fighting tides

24/7

every

   woman

   is an island

sustaining life

with limitations

like stuck on occupied lands

nuclear godheads and land grabs

she sees way past

   the glass ceiling

way past

the wall street walls

   and histories of slavery

right on

dirty new york streets

she climbs and climbs

the corporate ladder

can lead right up

   to the floors of world trade

   controlled demolitions

buildings with codes

she can be lost

in the stairwells

of concrete remote control

   bombs and drones drive her nuts

she keeps on though

goddess

carrying the tradition

mother ma life giver,

the planter,

master maker

the light

   the creator.


ava bird is an american based poet, writer, editor, reviewer, producer, magical elixir maker and more! Her poetic and other works are printed in historical anthologies, academic journals, spiritual publications, online, recorded for radio and exhibited in galleries. She has published two books of poetry and prose ‘the new now’ and ‘rage against the war machine’ and is an organizer for the worldwide poetry movement 100thousand poets for change. You may also see her artwork somewhere! Connect @ facebook: avabirdpoetic

The Funeral of a Nation

My grandfather is dead. I thought there would be more time, another birthday party for me to ignore the invitation for. But he has been dead for two weeks. Long enough to cast a vote for presidency. Long enough for a large and estranged family to organize the funeral, buy plane tickets, or save up gas money for the trek to the homestead of Michigan.

For most of the seventeen-hour drive, my partner and I have been bouncing around from CDs, to the iPod, to the radio, to small breaks with RedBull. As we finally cross from Ohio into Michigan, our sense of relief is met with a terrifying sense of dread. Miles tick down like the ball dropping on New Year’s. We find we’re listening to NPR more and more. In the next twenty-four hours, everything is going to change. My grandfather will be eulogized. The nation will either have its first female president, or a man who….

I shake my head.

I can’t even think of what would happen if he gets elected. I take shallow measured breaths, with each one, praying to get through the next two days in one piece. My dogs are sleeping in the back seat. My partner is barely awake beside me. My sister is dating another woman on the other side of the country. My nieces are tucked safely in bed in the state I’ve just arrived in.

There is so much at stake in this election.

“If he wins, we should buy a gun,” I tell my partner, voice hiding within the confines of the night. If I speak too loudly, if I brace myself too much, I may tip the election in favor of the sum of all fears. I can’t even bring myself to say his name.

“You should buy a knife. Maybe two. One to keep with you at all times, and one to keep in your car,” he responds. He doesn’t need to say it. In the silence, we both hear Grab them by the pussy. I bite my teeth together. I dare someone to grab me. “We should stock up on water and dog food.” We bounce ideas back and forth, preparing for another war.

On the radio, it’s announced that Trump has won another state. And another. Clinton has fallen behind. We breathe more, we drive, the dogs stay asleep in the backseat. Another mile ticks by. Ten more. We’re so close to the end.

Headlights cut through the dark road and spill onto my mother’s small house. We pull in the driveway and she meets us outside, cigarette in hand. I last saw her barely over a week ago, for another family member’s funeral. I’d picked her and my oldest sister up from the airport and was informed that the woman standing in front of me would be voting for Trump.

I’d been told earlier in the drive that she never made it to the polls. A pathological liar my entire life, I am not sure what to believe. I take refuge in the fact that even if she did vote, she has the decency to lie to me about it.

We stumble into the house, her dogs, locked away in a bedroom with her husband, bark loud enough to wake the neighborhood. My dogs make their way into the fenced in area, do their business and follow me to the bedroom.

My bones are tired and sore from the drive, from the radio, from the fact Clinton still hasn’t pulled into the lead. My partner crawls into bed beside me while my mother makes up an air mattress in the living room. She and her husband of ten years have slept separately for longer than I can remember.
Blue light illuminates the room as my partner checks the latest information for the election. “Trump is still ahead,” he says.

“I’m so scared,” I whisper as a dog crawls under the blankets and nestles against my neck. He pushes the button to kill the screen to his phone and we’re in complete darkness. My partner’s hand stumbles through the shadows to find me. He tries to reassure me with his touch, but I am mostly numb. He can’t win the election. He just can’t.

“We’ll know more in the morning. There are still a lot of votes to be counted.”

I lay awake while his breathing evens out. All three dogs breathe nearly in unison, like ocean waves crashing and going back out to sea. Slowly, I relax and follow suit. It’s still dark when he stirs beside me. I don’t know what time it is, but my body screams to remain still, hidden in blackness for several more hours. Though my eyes are closed, they register the difference in lighting as his phone jumps to life.

“Trump won,” he says.

His words freeze the air. My heart falls out of my body and onto the floor. I’m not sure I’m breathing. “No.” I say. This can’t be happening. “What?”
“Trump won.”
“It’s my grandad’s funeral today. You couldn’t just give me a few more hours of peace?” My voice rises. A war is coming.

“You would have survived the Holocaust,” my mother told me. It is one of the first memories I have of her. A thick layer of smoke from her cigarettes surrounds her as she speaks.
“Why?” My sisters and I ask.
As though she doesn’t hear the question she continues, “Jacci and Laura have dark hair, so they would be dead. But you. You have the blond hair and blue eyes the Germans looked for.” She touches my hair gently. Only, my eyes are green and always have been.

His alarm goes off. My alarm goes off. We push snooze to avoid starting the day. Another alarm. Another. I text my oldest sister to tell her that we woke up late and will hold her up and prevent her from getting to the funeral early. She tells me she, her husband, and children will wait but we need to hurry. My mother’s voice continues to play in a loop through my head, “You would have survived the Holocaust.”

But my sisters would be dead.
My grandmother was in a concentration camp.
My sister is dating a girl.
My other sister has two daughters.
I have had an abortion.
My granddad is dead.
I’m having trouble breathing.

Sensing my distress, my partner reaches over and squeezes my knee. I exhale. I inhale. I swallow the anxiety plaguing me. I swallow the urge to vomit. I exhale, I inhale. I swallow. I did what I could. I cast my vote. My partner cast his for the first time in his twenty-three years. I had intelligent debates with people on social media and in person. I voted. I made sure to vote.

Why wasn’t it enough?

I ride in the very back of my sister’s husband’s vehicle, with my niece. There is a rest stop where I buy skittles and share with my nieces and nephew. My sister, a health nut to the core, glares at me. We discuss the election results. When we speak of my other sister, when we talk of the Vice President-Elect’s support of conversion therapy, I crack. Tears sting my eyes. The world, my nation is hollow. It is the perfect day for a funeral.

“Why are you crying?” my niece asks.
“Because I’m scared,” I tell her honestly.

The sun is bright but the creep of winter is setting into the bones of the trees. I can’t help but wonder if I’m burying my grandfather or my nation today.

In solidarity to my emotional turmoil, my partner and I take a shot of vodka in the parking lot to act as a buffer from too many feelings hitting me at once. My abusive, alcoholic father stands at the door of the church greeting people as they walk in. My sister and I stop dead in our tracks, grab her childrens’ hands and back-pedal. “Why aren’t we going in?” her husband and my partner ask. We shake our heads and keep speed walking to another entrance of the church.

I have not seen this man since I graduated high school, ten years ago. At that time I was still afraid of him. Before that encounter, he had lost custody of us during a drunken night my sisters and I try to forget. And yet, that man is no longer my father, at least not the one I knew.

He sits mere pews from me, my partner, my nieces and nephew, sister and her husband. His hair is greyer. He moves slower. Parts of me are scared as I watch his siblings sit beside him, or as I observe my sister stiffen in his mere presence.

Then, when the preacher conducting the sermon says, “Let us pray,” my father bows his head, and suddenly, the man is human. A boy who just lost his 104-year-old father. A man who lost the opportunity to watch his three children grow up and become a teacher, an intellectual, and a rebel.

The procession leads outside where there are elderly men in military uniforms standing beside flags. My granddad was a World War II Veteran, the same war I was brought up to believe I would have survived. My father stands just in front of my family. I know he recognizes my sister. I am unsure if he recognizes me. My nephew stumbles a few steps away from me, and I grab him as though the man he nears is a radioactive chemical spill rather than a man.

Gun shots ricochet through the air while my oldest niece covers her younger sister’s sensitive ears. In my arms, my nephew jerks from the sudden boom.
And then it is over.

My family and partner pile into the same vehicle we arrived in. My sister says goodbye to no one. I am shaking as I take my seat beside my niece. We eat candy until my stomach is upset.

We drive the miles to my niece’s swim practice and with each mile that stretches before us, I swallow the tears that are like acid in my throat. I take a breath deep enough to puff my chest. I sit straighter. I am the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. I am the granddaughter of a World War II veteran. I am the sister of a queer woman. I am a woman who has had an abortion.

I would have survived the Holocaust.

I will survive this war.


Lynne Schmidt is a mental health professional in Norway, Maine. She has recently become a recurrent contributor of FIDO Magazine and has had publications in UNE Magazine, The Sun Journal, The Portland Press Herald, Her Kind Vida, several editions of Zephyr, and many others. She is the founder of AbortionChat and regularly attends reproductive justice and writing conferences where she participates in panels or hosts them. She prefers the company of her three dogs and cats to humans.

Death Awaits Us: Life After the ACA Repeal

People need to put faces to stories to believe them and care. This is why non-profit organizations ask one or more of their clients to stand at the podium and tell their own story at the annual fundraiser. This is why local news channels throw at least one feel-good, from-struggle-to-success story into almost every broadcast. It already feels like forever ago when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law in March 2010. Maybe that is why so many people have forgotten about the faces and stories that were publicized during the year prior in efforts to humanize the need for better access to insurance and healthcare. I wasn’t one of those faces at the time, but I am now, and repealing the ACA will cause my death. That’s not hyperbole, it’s fact. I am a face and story you can consider when you wonder if the ACA matters.

In March 2010 I was a year and a half into a pretty great job at a local non-profit agency. Sure, there were things about the job that were less than ideal, but for the most part I felt good about the work we were doing, the people with whom I was doing it, and my ability to contribute to that work. I was being paid slightly more than I had ever made per hour before, I had extremely low cost health insurance because the agency paid so much towards it, and my son still qualified for Medicaid as a secondary insurer which covered the copays and things my private insurance didn’t pay in full. I was getting dental care for the first time in 15 years, and I felt like a responsible mother. I wasn’t making enough money to realistically save any, and I lived pretty simple, but I finally felt like an adult in my mid-to-late 30s. I had some health issues, most of which had been addressed by getting a hysterectomy in 2008 and being diagnosed with PTSD and fibromyalgia in 2009. I was profoundly grateful to have insurance that covered a lot of testing to rule out epilepsy, brain tumors, and other concerns caused by the physical symptoms of my PTSD. The ACA did not change anything for me, but I recognized what an important step is was for so many others.

Even though the ACA didn’t immediately affect me personally, I was working in the field of healthcare access—particularly for children on Medicaid. We were on the frontlines of helping families find reliable and culturally competent pediatric care. We saw how many children were falling through the gaps in receiving services, despite having Medicaid, because of other barriers such as: getting to the doctor, a shortage of pediatric dentists who accepted Medicaid, and long waiting lists to see a psychiatrist for behavioral health prescriptions. As far as we could tell, the ACA was the greatest thing to happen in our lifetimes. In the long run, it meant more children would have more access, and it meant their parents would also finally have some kind of coverage.

I will never forget taking a phone call from a mother to arrange transportation for her sick child to the doctor’s, and the mom asking if I knew of any program that provided transportation for adults. There weren’t any. She told me she had just had a miscarriage the week before while at home alone with her toddler. She didn’t have a way to get in to see her doctor for aftercare and didn’t have any insurance so she couldn’t afford whatever prescriptions they might give her anyway. As someone who’d had several miscarriages, some of the symptoms she named alerted me to the fact that she was at severe risk of sepsis and infection. She needed to be seen immediately. I broke rules. After arranging the transportation to the child’s appointment at a clinic across the street from an ER, I suggested the mom go to the ER immediately following the appointment. We were not allowed to provide transportation to the ER or for adult appointments, but she could do both in one trip and then get the return cab as if it had just been one long appointment. This didn’t address how she would ever pay that ER bill, but it did, in fact, literally save her life. This is how I knew the ACA was a vital change for our country.

In 2014 I was let go from that job, the casualty of longstanding ableism and racism – both of which had taken a major toll on my physical and mental/emotional health. It had taken changing doctors and trying other options we knew were not appropriate fixes for me to finally convince my insurance to let me try a more expensive medication that many people with fibromyalgia were finding worked for them. We tried it, but because I am also bipolar, we learned the hard (and scary) way that I cannot take something that contains an anti-anxiety medication because it has the opposite effect and dramatically increases my anxiety and paranoia, while also causing extreme jitters and mania. I had warned my supervisor I was trying out this new medication and not reacting well to it, but that we were trying to give it the appropriate trial period to see if those side effects would lessen as they had for others.

Instead of accommodation or compassion, I was placed in more and more stressful situations in the office, situations that preyed on my documented anxieties and gaslighted under the guise of my paranoia. After being racially verbally abused by a new coworker and, under this stress, revealing a previous supervisor’s longstanding harassment, I was fired. Just like that, I had to go off the new medication before we could see if time would mellow the side-effects. Just like that I had no medical care at a particularly vulnerable time in my mental well-being.

I point out the particularities of my loss of medical coverage so you can understand what a loss of treatment options for an already traumatized and disabled person means. I couldn’t refill my prescription and had to simply stop taking it. The timing was such that I wasn’t even able to gradually step down, so I also experienced some rather unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. I wasn’t able to pay for an office appointment to see my doctor to formulate new options. I point these things out so you can consider what it means to be without insurance – something that prior to the ACA a huge portion of our population was – and what it means to lose the insurance one has grown accustomed to – something that will happen to a huge portion of our population if the ACA is repealed.

I applied for Medicaid as quickly as I could after losing my job. I was turned down because even though I answered the questions and informed them I no longer had an income, that I had lost my job, they judged my income based on the six months prior when I had been employed. There was an appeal process that I followed, presenting updated information to them, including proof directly from my ex-employer that I was no longer employed, and I was still turned down because they said I had made enough money that I should have savings that would allow me to purchase insurance. They could plainly see that I had no savings in my accounts, but that wasn’t their point. They believed I should have saved money.

Six months later my tax preparer (fortunately, also a long-time friend) raised his voice at me from the other side of his desk, shocked that I had not obtained insurance and now required to provide evidence of an exemption so I would not be fined. He also informed me there were just a few days left before the deadline to get on the ACA website and apply for coverage. I immediately did so, and it was the federal government that determined I qualified for Medicaid, forcing the state to begrudgingly give it to me. I also started college and have been “out of the work force” since and instead living (in very difficult conditions) on my student loans, freelance writing, and occasional small sales of my own artworks. But I have health insurance.

In August 2015 I was diagnosed with a lifelong STI that combines with my existing autoimmune issues, causing my fibromyalgia to “migrate” to other parts of my body not previously affected by it, and creating a pretty consistently painful situation. This change has also lowered my immunity to infections. I’ve had bronchitis more times in the past year than in my entire life prior, for example, ending up in the ER and requiring heart function tests more than once. At the same time, a lifetime of disordered eating caused by the mix of poverty and trauma began to cause noticeable problems for me, and I was diagnosed as chronically malnourished – but because of ongoing poverty this continues to be an issue and I have not yet succeeded in breaking the pattern.

In February 2016 I fell and broke my ankle, requiring surgery and three months completely off it. I’m still in a great deal of pain and have strained it repeatedly, torn a ligament at least three times, and generally been extra clumsy ever since. Being less steady on my feet and having to keep weight off that one a lot of the time has exacerbated an old hip injury from giving birth 20 years ago, and made my scoliosis more pronounced. My knees are starting to give out on staircases. My autoimmune issues have gotten worse and are flaring almost constantly. I have a few prescriptions and a few over-the-counter medications that I need in order to help manage pain and illnesses a little better. I’m still a full-time student, working a few hours a week in the school gallery, and living on very little. My Medicaid has covered all of the care associated with my illnesses and injuries. Medicaid through the ACA has granted me access to doctors, tests, and treatments as needed.

Whatever you might think about my quality of life when you read all of the above – I have a good life. I am studying art history, making art, going to shows with friends, writing and publishing, engaging in critical dialogues about art’s role in social justice, planning a research trip to Morocco after graduation, considering graduate school options, and genuinely enjoying life. I am not “suffering” because of disability. I am sick, I am in pain, yes. I am a queer, crip, person of color in a country where I thought we were evolving but instead we are moving backwards suddenly. But I have a beautiful life in many ways. I am not someone to pity.

I am a face of someone who will be devastated by the ACA being repealed. I will lose my Medicaid. I will not be able to afford any other insurance or the copays and deductibles associated with them. With the proposed exclusion of coverage for pre-existing conditions, even if I had insurance it would be of very little use to me. I won’t have access to my doctor, access to my medications, access to any new treatments for my conditions that might become available, or even access to any mental health services.

If you don’t live with chronic pain and illness, you can’t fully understand the toll it takes. When chronic pain and illness are combined with existing mental health conditions and no treatments of any kind, it is impossible to imagine living. If the illnesses themselves and opportunistic infections don’t kill me first, the inability to deal with the pain and hopelessness will. And the scariest thing about it all is this: I have so many other disabled and chronically ill friends who will die so much faster and more painfully than myself if the ACA is repealed.

I have friends – people I know and love – who will quite literally die within months, some in weeks, when their medications and treatments are taken away. I might last a couple years. Probably not more than two, but maybe that long. I might manage to still accomplish something in that time that makes me worth remembering, something that serves humanity. But so many people will be destroyed and we will never know what brilliance, beauty, and marvelous things they might have created to save us all. That makes me feel pity for all of us.


Aaminah Shakur is a queer, crip, multi-racial/multi-cultural artist, art historian, culture critic, and poet. Their website is aaminahshakur.com.