New Poem by Anna Kaye-Rogers
I am meant to protect myself, to scratch and tear, a cat hissing in the night. I bare my teeth. Everything is sharp and pointed. I am meant to be fierce, on fleek, my eyebrows rubbed raw. I tear my own flesh and relish the pain. When I am found they will examine each nail, to see what traces have been left behind, that what was underneath was more important all along.
My kitten kneads me, each claw dangerously close to connect. I am covered in fine red lines, a correcting pen to each stretch mark, every scar, all the places the bumps and bruises settle along my skin. She curls into the caverns in my collarbones, the slow curve of my belly, an outstretched arm threatening to fall off the side of her world. When she is cornered she is afraid, she spends days under the bed, yet now when I sleep the blanket that once protected me feels too thin. There are monsters inside cocoons, and I have met my share. She sleeps on my back and holds me to the world I try so desperately to escape. Tiny claws mark the passage of time, and when my nails chip I peel the rest away. I cannot abide my imperfection, I must cover up all sign I ever was flawed. The soft cotton balls stink of strong poison that I willingly apply to myself.
And when I drink I am told to protect myself, to measure the liquid against the color of the polish. If it changes it means I am not safe, I have been seen as harmless and marked. Why must we teach our girls to dip their fingers in their own drinks, why are our young men not keeping fingers to themselves? Our nails get longer and sharper, we file them to points and bite them to the quick, always peeling and ripping and building anew. We blanket ourselves in pastel pinks and metallic purples, bright blues and soft white lines, until lips and nails match and everything is blackened, for there is power in feeling unreadable.
I wish to sheathe my claws, to find a safe place to curl up and rest and be left alone, a hidden space that black cats and soft kittens can find. I wish to enjoy my drinks in peace, to luxuriate in my own silence, the actuality of my own being in my own spot and perfectly enough.
I run my nails lovingly across the backs of necks and shoulder blades, down spines and up sides; to run my fingers through hair lovingly, because I want to be needed too. I want to be capable of murder without breaking a nail, but sometimes there are people who remind you to put your claws away.
New poem by Aimee Curran
I believe her.
Drinking too much coffee to stay
awake during the darkest hours.
Waiting up with the moon until it
glides past the lip of the ocean.
I believe her.
Filling herself with strangers
to keep him away in the shadows.
Flicking on the lights despite their protests
and never staying through the night.
I believe her.
Spending holidays at the movies
always buying one ticket and a box of Goobers.
Every Christmas eating pork lo mein at
Cathay Kitchen and asking for extra fortune cookies.
I believe her.
Writing poetry on napkins at the local
cafe, taking advantage of free refills.
Showing up every month at open mic,
sitting in the back, working up the courage to speak.
Well, folks, you probably haven’t heard from us in a while. So here is an absolute treat to make it up to you. The elegant yet uproarious audio stylings of one Christina Guldi are here to make your Throwback Thursday. The audio is split into 2 parts. You can also read an excerpt below, or the full text in Issue 1.1, the very first issue of S/tick!
What to Do with My Legs by Christina Guldi, Part 1:
What to Do with My Legs by Christina Guldi, Part 2:
Can’t I just be still and enjoy this for what it is? Live in the moment like a Zen Buddhist. Why is he doing this? It doesn’t seem as if he knows he wants this. Did he forget where he is? He seems anxious. He did say he was a Buddhist earlier at the bar, right? Was that around last call? So I’m SURE he’s living in the moment. Isn’t this supposed to make me feel appreciated? Feminine? Empowered? Why do I feel like I supposed to be rooting him on with bullhorns and sparklers somehow? I’m not really into feeling like having orgasm anyway right now. I feel like I’m supposed to have one though. Because if I don’t I am somehow failing him . . . in his own expectations for himself. Is there something wrong with me that this isn’t really making me feel sexy? Am I too uptight for not being able to just indulge? Why am I wishing he was kissing my shoulders or my back or the back of my knee instead? Why don’t they ever kiss the back of my knees? How would he know if I didn’t tell him? But how would they know if they never try? Ohh, why don’t they ever kiss my knees? Why am I expecting golden swirls of equality and adoration to be emanating from the skins of our bodies as they mesh together?
New short fiction by Fallon Chiasson
“Look, a rosette sp—”
“A flamingo!” Ava said as their Carolina Skiff rounded the bend in the canal.
“No, sweetheart,” her mother, Jill, said. “Grandma was trying to tell you that it’s a roseate spoonbill. They are like flamingos. It’s pink because of the shrimp it eats.”
“Oh,” Ava said, looking up from her bird watching app, “I just looked up pink birds and that’s what it said. How do you spell what you said?”
Jill looked over to see what she knew would be disappointment on her mother’s face. But then Jill thought about how much data she would get charged for this weekend. Then wondered what in the world the location services on Ava’s iPad would be thinking. Then she chuckled and laced her arm around the two women: Ava on her right and Ada on her left. The women she was between were related by blood, yes, but that was only what united them. But that didn’t matter, not right now, at least. Not to Jill. She chuckled at her existential thoughts and returned to the moment in front of her: her mother, Ada—which Jill had only heard pronounced as A-da, with a hard, Cajun A and making the flowing, disyllabic name into jagged one—had taken she and Ava out to the secret fishing spot. Jill couldn’t get them back to the camp even if she tried.
It was Jill’s weekend with Ava. Two weekends ago, the two of them had stayed inside of Jill’s three-bedroom condo in New Orleans catching up on The Bachelorette and ordering takeout from the restaurants specializing in modern Cajun fare—vegan boudin, cornmeal gnocchi, oyster toast—that lined her street. They even had snowballs delivered by Waitr.
It was that time of year in South Louisiana that the only mildly comfortable place to be outside was on the water. Not by the water on the Riverwalk or in Jean Lafitte Park, but actually on top of the body of water that had been like a second home to Jill ages ago. Last weekend, the maternal guilt had set in. She wasn’t making the memories with Ava that she had grown up with; rather, she was inoculating Ava into the right-now culture Jill herself had grown so accustomed to—no waiting for the fish to fry, much less waiting for the fish to bite in the first place. After the Bachelorette weekend, Jill called her aging mother, who still lived in Jill’s childhood home down the bayou, to ask if they could take out the boat to go fishing, like old times.
“Does Ava know her iPad can’t get wet?” Ada had responded. Ada pronounced Ava’s name—a homage to Jill’s mother—with the same inflection that her name was pronounced: A-va. Jill cringed every time.
“Maybe,” Jill kept her voice calm. She knew her mother didn’t approve of Ava’s inert lifestyle. “But Saturdays are tech-free when Ava is with me—trying to detox her from when she’s with her dad—so the iPad wouldn’t come on the boat.”
Ada was silent. It was better than her usual comment: “throw her outside, lock the door, and don’t let her come inside until dark. Get her to make some friends in the neighborhood.” Jill never corrected her mother that the majority of her neighbors were middle aged lawyers, bankers, and doctors. Or that she never let Ava be alone outside.
“Oh Mom, don’t you remember when we’d go out on the boat and live off the land? Shrimp and crab and redfish? Then boil and fry and eat outside? I want Ava to have memories of our heritage. Like I do.”
Jill heard Ada put the phone down. Ada still had a house phone and the cord didn’t reach her stove, where a pot of red beans—soaked, boiled, simmered; not from a can like assimilated Cajuns do, like Jill does—was due for a stir.
“Fine.” Ada said. “Pick me up at 4:30 Saturday mornin’. We can have the boat in the water by 5:30, fish until it gets hot, and be home for lunch.”
“But momma, can’t we spend the night? Do some fishing off the dock in the evening? Make drip coffee in the morning?”
“We couldn’t plug in the iPad and run the window units on the generator at the same time,” Ada said.
“But Saturdays are tech—”
“C’est bon” Ada said as she sampled her red beans from the wooden spoon. “You want me to freeze some for y’all to have later?”
“No ma’am,” Jill said. She wouldn’t dare tell her mother that Ava didn’t eat onions, even the soft, clear minced onions in red beans. “We’ll see you Saturday.”
Willing it into existence, Jill set a reminder on her iPhone to pack an overnight bag for she and Ava anyway.
Jill wasn’t so great at waking up while it was still dark outside, even if she set three or seven alarms. By the time she managed to get up, feed the hamster, tried to wake Ava up, successfully woke Ava up, tried to get Ava to eat a bowl of Chobani but picked up chicken minis for both of them instead, and drove down the bayou to her mother’s house, it was 6:15 a.m. Her mother was sitting on her porch. Jill was certain Ada had been sitting on her porch since 5 a.m.
“Where have you been? I tried calling your house.” She sounded mad, not disappointed. Her mother probably expected this.
Jill didn’t respond. She never answered her home phone anymore.
“We’re gonna smother if we go fishin right now,” Ada said. “I put the crab traps in the boat and we can go set them then check them when we go fishing late this afternoon.”
The smallest of smiles appeared on Jill’s face.
“C’mon,” Ada said to the two younger women. “Get in my truck.”
When Jill got in the truck, she noticed a bag with a change of clothes for her mother, and a toothbrush.
No one remembers how long the fishing camp has been standing. It was built by some great uncle or grandparent and the generations to follow had renovated it as needed—new wood for the dock, cleaning out the cistern, mending the roof after a storm. There were no electric poles—or neighbors—in sight, and the family hoped to keep it that way.
The camp had different rules than at home—a little more roughhousing was acceptable, staying up a little later was allowed, and the only baths that could be taken were with a bar of Ivory soap in the canal. But really, there was no roughhousing or staying up late: Jill and her brother’s days had been filled with fishing, crabbing, oystering, and swimming. When Jill got to high school, though, she stopped going to the fishing camp so much. When she got to college, she quit going altogether.
But her memories of the fishing camp were etched in her mind like a setting in a snow globe. Stronger than the visual memories, though, was the feelings that came when Jill thought about the fishing camp: her heart had always been so full. They didn’t have much back then, but there was so much quality time, so much love. What she thinks, when her maternal guilt kicks in, is that that was the cost of giving Ava iPads, trips to Disney World, and an Uptown private school education.
As soon as they arrived at the fishing camp, Ada opened the unlocked door, threw her bag of clothes on the ground, and turned on the generator. She threw a few beers and some sandwiches in the mini fridge. Jill came in behind her with her and Ava’s Vera Bradly duffels. She turned to look for Ava, but she was still in the boat.
“I’m scared to get out. Is that dock safe? Will I fall through? I see bugs.” She was repeating this mantra until someone heard her.
“C’mon, honey, come inside! We can snack until Grandma is ready to set the traps!”
But her mother was already heading back to the boat, a Miller Lite in hand. “Ready!” she said with more enthusiasm than Jill was accustomed to.
Jill placed the bags and ice chest on the ground, grabbed she and Ava each an Arizona tea, and headed to the boat.
Jill’s favorite part about going fishing was getting there. After they got out of the canal and into open water, Ada sped up the boat, taking it out of the wakeless idle and into nearly full gear. The small mud boat reared, and Jill saw Ava tense. Jill thought to reach out to Ava—all she would have to do is lean over—but stopped herself. She stayed standing beside her mother, but not too close.
The ride was Jill’s favorite part of the trip because of the solitude of the passengers, yet the togetherness. She was with her mother and daughter, mere feet and inches away, but they couldn’t speak to one another even if they tried. It was too loud. They were together physically, but far apart.
This distance closeness, Jill thought, is a paradox. The two women she stood between: the old, the young, inhabiting the same planet, worlds apart. She thought about how Ava will leave South Louisiana in a few years. She’ll go to some liberal arts college in the Northeast and sign petitions and join protests to support healthcare for all, no-questions-asked abortions, and weed. All these things that she, and many others, will need in the now. But Ada, in the town she grew up in and never left except for appointments in the city, will stand on the dock of her fishing camp in the Mississippi delta, charting how the land seems to dissipate by with each changing season while the oil rigs pop up like springtime flowers. She’ll think of those rigs, raping the earth, while praying that someone will put a stop to it. Because all she’ll be able to do is pray.
With so much time left, Ava will care about now; with so little time left, Ada will think of the future—the children she will never meet, and the lost land they will never see. And Jill, Jill will not know what to do, really, either—like how none of us really knows what to do—other than be the bridge that unites the two of them, and try to lessen the distance.
This Throwback Thursday brought to you by Freesia McKee
S/tick, Issue 1.4
this guy brought a poem
to our workshop
about being a man.
at the table
after the workshop,
one guy told me
to write a poem
that included the word
he knows i write
poems about women.
what else is there
do you get asked
what it feels like
to be a symbol
because to me,
you have become
i know how included i can feel
if i quote you.
is that my chair
to their table–
that is a poem
that will never be
This Throwback Thursday brought to you by Amber Hollinger
S/tick, Issue 1.2
Editor’s Note: Watch the don’t die press blog for some oldies but goodies from an earlier era of S/tick!
by Megan Harris
My mother is bone white and black
daughter born from cocaine breath
came out on the cusp of winter.
A wispy gasp and darkened heart
skin is paper stretched over bone
white sheet, dark pen, dark red.
Mother warns daughter to not love death
to not long to feel his dark eyes
fall upon her breasts.
Daughter is of winter locking,
a chest begging to be opened to light,
fill the lungs with dirt and breathe life.
Mother is bone white and black,
her burning head stares down
Daughter turns away again – frozen.
S/tick is now seeking submissions of your fabulous feminist farrago for our next issue!
Review the submissions guidelines above, then send us your best feminist poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and artwork.
We hold an intersectional view of feminism, so if your work deals with oppressions or empowerment, we want to read it.
You can also read some of our past issues to pay tribute to a brilliant community of feminist artists and authors and to get a sense of what we’re looking for.
excerpt by Suzanne Ondrus
from The Death of an Unvirtuous Woman
The incident began Saturday night:
into her ear,
that perceived the babies’ colic
and scarlet fever wails.
A slice from
of her mouth
out through her
that never was on a pillow
more than five hours.
With the corn knife, she could do
the corn fast, ten ears in three minutes.
Watch for the rest of the poem, and more from Suzanne Ondrus, in S/tick 4.2, coming your way soon!
An excerpt of “The Savior” by Kika Dorsey
You said your hunting was only sacrifice,
to put the red heart of elk on table.
You said your climbing ladders
was a way to hang me
on the red dawn of ambition,
that every father is dead,
every son a climber,
and I said I never chose to live with sacrifice,
and now all I know is loss.
Read the rest of “The Savior” in the upcoming S/tick Issue 4.2, chock-full of feminist creative writing and artwork. And check out more from Kika at her website, kikadorsey.com.