A new story by Gargi Mehra
The problem with suicide, Mrs. Gupta decided, was the utter lack of a convenient time to plan and commit the act. One or other of her grandchildren always had their teeth sunk deep into the holidays, exams or illness. And even she considered it bad form to off herself in the middle of a family vacation.
On their first day in Scotland, her entire family had slipped on their walking shoes and strolled through the cobbled streets of Fort William. Mrs. Gupta ambled behind her daughter Priya and son-in-law Vijay, who pushed the pram carrying their two-year-old son, while their older daughter Myra hopped and skipped her way beside them.
The day had ended on a pleasant note, but Priya insisted they visit the zoo some time on their trip. She foisted upon her mother a series of navy brochures parading something called the Blair Drummond Safari. The glossy photos promised an abundance of peacocks, alligators, and most worryingly, a close view of lions.
Mrs. Gupta pleaded with them to let her be. She promised to stay behind and look after the baby, while the three of them enjoyed their travails.
Priya laughed away the idea.
That night Mrs. Gupta jolted awake from feverish dreams of predators tearing apart her family.
Indian tourists found Scotland achingly beautiful, but she found it miserable. The drive through the winding roads that curved between vicious mountains covered in shrubbery left her heart sinking. For the first time she missed her husband. He would have taken the entire tour off her hands. When he set his foot down, Priya listened.
The drive through the country filled with Glens and Bens did not gladden her heart. Priya kept turning back to point things out to her mother. Myra sat at the edge of her seat, her nose pressed to the glass, marveling at every feature of the landscape that crossed her line of vision.
A sea of clouds accompanied them on their journey, as they drove along the edge of the lake. The blue waters of the Loch Lomond stretched out on one side.
“It’s one of the largest lakes in the UK, Ma!”
This failed to excite Mrs. Gupta, sending her into tizzies of alarm instead. She pursed her lips, missing the roar of her husband that would have shut her daughter down and exchanged the lions in her future with warm cups of tea and a bottle of pills.
They drove for what seemed like hours. Even Vijay’s arms were drooping. Mrs. Gupta wondered if she might have prevailed upon him to turn around and head back to their resort, but the resolve writ large on her daughter’s face stilled her tongue.
A large signboard proclaiming their destination consumed the horizon. A thundering rose in Mrs. Gupta’s heart as they drove through the gate. They continued up a concrete pathway that wound through the park, a carpet of greenery flanking them on either side. The baby had woken up and was now bouncing on Priya’s lap, making war cries. Mrs. Gupta just wished she wouldn’t.
They drove deeper into the zoo, stuck behind a number of chartered buses ferrying schoolchildren and their teachers.
Vijay said, “Look! Lions, up ahead! On the right!”
Mrs. Gupta’s insides turned to ice. She couldn’t see them, but she desired nothing more than to crawl into one of those huge buses the size of a house. What else could protect her from the canines of the king of the jungle up close?
The baby jumped on his mother’s lap using it as a trampoline. Myra too was banging her hand on the glass window. “Mamma look! There’s a lion prowling around on the grass!”
Mrs. Gupta wished she would stop her banging. She wished the toddler would stop his bouncing, and she longed for Vijay to conclude his monologue on the eating habits of lions. Did he really believe that they never hunted prey when their stomachs were full?
Terror gripped her heart as she watched the lion cut across the track and press its muzzle to the window.
She covered her ears as its claws screeched down the window and the door of the car. They all let loose blood-curdling shrieks.
Only the baby’s delight shot up. Mrs. Gupta couldn’t be sure what he was saying but it sounded like “Party, party!”
She felt a sudden uncontrollable urge to laugh. But the next instant, the glass window shattered. The lion stuck his head through the window. Myra, pinned to her seat, issued a silent scream but Mrs. Gupta had no time to notice that as she watched her hand disappear into the lion’s mouth. Its blatant greed appalled her. Where would she find another gold bangle like the one he was chomping on right now?
The pain rose in her chest. The world turned black before her eyes.
Cool drops of water splashed on her face.
Mrs. Gupta blinked, and found the space before her filled with a light blue. This must be heaven, but the hard wood poking into her back was hell.
“Are you ok, Ma?”
She sat up with a jerk. They were somewhere in the middle of the park. The landscape appeared free of those infernal lions.
“What happened? Did I have a heart attack?”
Priya laughed. “No, Ma! You just fainted! I don’t even know why! You missed the lion marking his territory around the cars in front of us!”
This puzzled Mrs. Gupta. “How does a lion mark his territory?”
Priya laughed even harder. “By urinating around it! Oh, Ma! The lion sprinted so far away. The buses ahead had moved, and we did too.”
The last time Mr. Gupta called his wife to his deathbed, he had said, “Don’t keep talking about suicide, Urmila. It is even a sin in some religions.”
She folded her hands in prayer, and touched them to her forehead.
don’t die press is delighted to present our second e-chapbook, The Anger Poems by Katherine Davis. Click to read The Anger Poems free now!
Can survival itself be a manifesto? Can the expression of anger and pain be a form of resistance? In The Anger Poems, Katherine Davis wields words as weapons to strike back at oppression, affirming her own mind and body and battling on behalf of all women-identified people. The Anger Poems by Katherine Davis, Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee
From The Anger Poems:
I emerge from the maze with a string fastened to my navel,
Pulled to a newly born brain, monstrously electrified, not by kite
And lightning, but by gut instinct, maternal writing, vindication
Of rights never before spoken. Let me wander from spring
Fields to polar ice caps. I pick at purpose like tightened fingers
Around an enemy’s throat. Black and blue, my mark: I settle
For livid wounds, screwy prints which no lawman could decipher.
A new essay by Miriam Edelson
I am normally a somewhat shy individual, not in the habit of discussing my private life with the world. But who would have thought that at age 60 I would have an orgasm that shook my world? Not me. I had experienced a drought in that department for over thirty years. And then I smoked some pot, got together with my life partner of twenty years, and Bob’s your uncle. Enhanced libido and a lovely sexual response. What a great discovery!
It happened while we were on a canoe trip in the remote and beautiful Quetico Provincial Park in northwestern Ontario. One’s senses are already piqued when canoeing and camping, the wilderness providing a delicious edge to everything. A little bit of pot thrown into the mix added a keener sensuality: the clear water felt silkier on my skin and the trees appeared greener, their canopy more majestic.
This was before pot became legal in Canada, but at that point I certainly wasn’t going to let a small legal matter stand in the way of a good orgasm. We returned home and got high from time to time, put on some sensual Latin music and went to bed. I began to enjoy sex more than I had in a long, long time.
I remember talking to my older sister at some point during the demise of my first marriage. I must have complained about the lack of romance I was feeling then after ten years at it. She pointed out to me that it was hard to feel romantic when you were busily cleaning hair from the bathtub drain and otherwise keeping everything going smoothly. I just figured sex would continue to simmer on a permanent back burner.
It didn’t help that I’d been on a variety of anti-depressants for over thirty years. They are known to dampen libido and sexual response and though I’d tried various remedies, nothing until marijuana had upped the ante for me. It was only now that I was rediscovering myself as a sexual being, with greater interest in pursuing an active sex life with my partner. It goes without saying, perhaps, that he was pleased by this surprising turn of events.
Then pot was legalized and I was able to get a prescription for CBD oil both for anxiety and one laced with a small amount of THC as a sleep aid. I tried them, very tentatively. Both seemed to help the respective issues for which they were sought. My psychiatrist suggested that I only use very small amounts of the THC product, as there isn’t full research yet on its impact on the other drugs I must take.
I heed his caution and continue to use small amounts of pot from time to time. I now enjoy sex with my partner a great deal. I’m a bit like the lyric in Bruce Cockburn’s song, “Mama just wants to barrelhouse all night long.” Well, perhaps that an exaggeration. But you get the point.
So that’s my happy story. I tell it partly to suggest to people who must take antidepressants and other psychotropic medications that marijuana may be worth discussing with your care provider. It’s no replacement for a patient and generous lover, but can certainly add some spice. I can’t believe now that I waited thirty years for another orgasm to shake my world!
New piece by Connie Woodring.
My very first memory. I was three years old, playing in the sandbox with other kids.
In a flash, a boy hit me in my face with his metal shovel (no plastic in those days.)
It was my first sight of blood, my blood.
I still have the scar on my right eyebrow.
At a very young age I was introduced to the Old Maids card game. The picture of the ugly old white lady who never married scared the bejeesus out of me. I swore I would do everything in my power to not end up like that! It wasn’t until much later in life that I asked whoever was listening, Why isn’t there a card game called “Happy Black Bachelor?”
Even though my grandmother was an atheist, she and other relatives insisted I go to Sunday School and church. I dutifully obeyed and read the Bible from cover to cover the summer of my seventh year. It meant nothing to me, and I couldn’t pronounce all the names with letters of more than eight. However, one thing stuck with me. Eve was the cause of humanity’s downfall and was responsible for making all women suffer in childbirth. Unconsciously, I, being female, determined I was a horrid being and could never redeem myself.
In 5th grade the classroom bully regularly pushed me around into swings and seesaws.
I told me mother. She boldly ordered, “Push him back!”
I did push him, except it was into traffic, and he narrowly escaped severe injury.
However, he never bothered me again.
In 6th grade another class bully (who was always nice to me) got throttled by our teacher.
We horrified classmates listened as he was pushed into iron coat hooks in the cloak room.
He screamed and was smacked.
When he and our teacher came out of the torture chamber, we sat silently staring straight ahead.
No one ever talked about this incident, but we never saw that class bully again.
As a geometry student in high school, I was ordered to leave the room by Mr. B——. “Woodring, you can leave by the door or by the window!” The window was three stories high.
My crime: I couldn’t understand a geometry concept and asked for help. Years later, feminists bemoaned the fact that females are under-represented in math and science fields.
Like the 6th grade classroom experience, all students looked straight ahead and didn’t say anything to me after class.
When I was a psychiatric social worker at a state hospital, I was attacked by a male teenage patient.
I was in a bathroom stall.
I heard the outer door open but no sound.
When I opened the door, this patient lunged at me, putting his hands around my throat.
I always dreamt that if this were ever to happen, I wouldn’t be able to scream.
However, I found my very loud voice, and the boy ran out.
I reported this incident and made a formal complaint, indicating that in my professional opinion such a patient should not have been granted open ward privileges.
The response from the superintendent was, “Are you sure you didn’t provoke the attack?”
My ex-husband stereotypically did not like my mother.
On the last occasion that she visited us he blew a hole in the living room wall with his double-barrel shot gun.
His response, “Oh! I was just cleaning it. I thought it was unloaded.”
My mother and I never spoke of this incident, but I read the fear in her eyes.
He always threatened to kill me if I ever left him.
A year later I divorced him, considering it would be better to be shot by him than to live the rest of my life as a dumbified and mummified wife.
An American white woman friend of mine dated a black man. Her next-door Nazi neighbor who had a portion of Mein Kampf tattooed on his bald head came to her door one day and threatened, “Get rid of your n— or watch him hang from my oak tree!” She obeyed.
On 9/11 a colleague came into my office at the end of a most horrendous day.
She was smiling, and so I asked, “Didn’t you hear about what happened?”
Her answer, “Oh, yes. That’s why I’m so glad! Today is the Rapture when all the sinners will die, and I will be going to heaven—probably tonight!”
Since she wasn’t an Islamic terrorist, I realized I had just had an encounter with a born-again.
At a ripe old age, I died and went to heaven, although I have no idea how that happened. In spite of reading the Bible, I believed in God until I was 19. It was then that I took a sociology of religion course in college and never looked back.
Now I am quite bored as I listen to God’s incessant poetry: “I Blessed America,” “I Work in Mysterious Ways,” “I am a Jealous God and There are No Other gods Before Me.”
I amuse myself diagnosing God: insecure megalomaniac, misogynist, sociopath, Extreme Patriarchitis.
I long for the day when a non-gendered being of some sort will emerge to never want to rule the universe.
Only then will I be able to finally go to sleep.
New poem by Elinor Clark
Oh strange, spiky plant.
Though stunted, you still stretch upwards,
Desperately digging in roots.
But with each growth remember the tub that you’re held in.
Nowhere to go.
Thick, plastic looking skin
Inflicted with some serious malady.
Will scare anyone away.
Put the spikes up.
Pretend that’s what you want.
As a belated tribute to all trans sisters, a poem from Anastasia Walker, appearing in S/tick Issue 2.4: OUTreach.
To 22 year old rapper Evon, suffocated with a plastic bag, choked with a chain, and beaten with wrenches and hammers in Milwaukee on New Year’s Day
To 20 year old Nicole in Brazil, shot to death after the boy she kissed and his companheiros discovered the secret that shouldn’t have to be secret
To 21 year old Dannie, kidnapped and decapitated by an armed gang in Monterrey
To the unnamed but not nameless 22 year old shot in Sarasota the same day
To Ale, 24 years old, in Buenos Aires, killed somehow the day after
To Fernanda, 32, of Viamo, Brazil, shot by two men in a car
To Tiffany of Guyana, sex worker, teenager, throat slit
To Nathalia, 32, stabbed in Quezon City, and her death mocked in the papers
To Cecilia, age not given, shot six times in Fortaleza
To Natalya, treinta, shot twice in Maracaibo, tierra del sol amada
And Jeckson and ?, killed in the same city,
And = =, killed by a car up the coast in Caracas, all on the 19th
To Agata, just a teen, stabbed to death in Camapua the day after my 49th birthday
To Romildo of Recife, stoned to death after 35 years of life
To Alejandra, 28, neglected to death in a Colombian hospital after a fight
To 30 year old Indian Vinod, shot
To 36 year old Karen of Zimatlán de Álvarez, found stabbed and half naked
To 27 year old La Tita of Ciudad Sandino, la Nueva Vida, stabbed in her home by her date
To 18 year old Vitória of Boa Vista, stabbed to death by her boyfriend:
It’s not the sanctioned bigotry, spanning hemispheres and centuries, which these crime scene snaps flesh out
Nor the thought of so much vibrancy so thoughtlessly snuffed out
Nor even the ferocity of your murders – call them atrocities –
That sits like nine hundred pounds of lead and ice in my heart, but the fear
That as the motherfuckers came at you
Punch-drunk and snarling for blood
You might for a second have felt
I deserve this.
This poem draws on the list of murder victims compiled annually for the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) observed across the U.S. and Canada, and in cities around the globe, in mid-November.
A Throwback Thursday piece by Yvonne Jayne, originally published July 2014.
I am shaped by her thought of me,
I am named in her dreams,
Baptized by her vision of me
And born into her likeness.
I am shattered by her disappointments
I cry for her lost life,
I fall in her vacuum and
I flail in her failures.
I am driven by her dreams,
I am powered by her regrets,
She is capsized by the curse
Of her marriage to a madman.
I am rocked by his rages
Storms in the long night,
His genius beats against his bars
I am shattered by his disappointments.
I am unsteady, rising to the sun,
I am called in visions
To express what is sinking,
Back to the core of me again.
I am unheard in my expression
Struggling to have a voice,
I am told to stop being dramatic
And make obedience my choice.
I am shattered by their disappointments
Drowning in their struggles,
Each is the enemy of the other
Storms in the long night.
A new poem by Harley Claes.
I think I can only sleep next to you in sex trance
when the veil is fresh from sociopath
and the smile sweet from narcissus
when I’m lucid you’re but a monster with the urge to
choke out the docile
in every woman and mother that is not she, your great
love and captor
your long lost blood line
fleeting and finicky
dependent and long foreseen
knowing if she could see
she would be ashamed
2 new poems by Naomi Borkent
All Mothers Were Summoned When George Floyd Called Out For His
A black man lays cuffed on the ground
A white man’s knee crushing his neck.
He calls out for his Mother.
His dying breaths, to plead for his Momma.
To plead for air, for breath.
Mine catches in my chest.
I want to turn away, I don’t want to see.
I don’t want to see the fruit of generations of hatred, systemic discrimination and abuse.
I want to say: “I don’t see colour!” But I do.
I see you, I see you, I see you. I do not understand your pain. I cannot. But I understand my privilege.
Skin That Looks Like Mine
Skin that looks like mine, you see in magazines.
Skin that’s white.
Pale, translucent and milky.
Skin that says: “Eurocentric Beauty”
Says: “Sorry, Officer. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
But skin that looks like his
Skin that looks like hers…
Chocolate, latte, cinnamon
Kissed by the sun, made of Earth
Says: “Where are you really from?”
Says: “You don’t belong.”
One whose tongue remembers the language of their great-grandmothers…but speaks English instead.
I can’t pretend to understand your pain. Your righteous anger. But I stand with you.
New poem by Casey Catherine Moore
Is the bottled-up emotions, forced down by Uranus into Gaia’s belly
The tears that leak out after ages of suppression
Our oppression is when the words
Are trapped on the backs of our tongues
And feelings pull forth instead
Like the last bit of honey oozing from the jar
They call us hysterical, a word tied to the darkness of the womb, hystera
But you need no womb to be a woman and to be a woman is to be transcendent
They teach us to be givers, to twist ourselves in different spaces
They tell us we are both Madonnas and whores
They build the gilded cage and ask us to dance
And call us bossy when we make the rules
When Pandora was made from Earth Phobos screamed
And man took heed and tried to shovel her back down
But woman is necessity, Ananke, and because she is darkness she is the only thing who
can chase away Night.