Prayer

Everything I like is like that man who first thought to take that picture of that starving black child waited for by that black vulture in that Sudan. I like what I write. I am hurting myself by liking things. My words are maybe taking pictures of myself starving me. I tell myself stories in order to clutch my throat. My throat is clutched. Please make me pretty, I don’t want to die. I want to sleep now. I know I am holding this so tightly with sleep. I know I am screaming towards this with my sleeping. What should we ask of in a world whose only word is “Work”? People are not asking of us because they are busy. I am not asking of us because I am simulating being busy. This is the best deal. This is the unasked-for gift. If I saw a starving black child my first thought would not be to take this picture of myself. Or wake. Everyone is dying. There are such pretty words for this.

Photograph by Michelle Agins, “James Baldwin in Chicago”, 1983

Lifespan of a Blooming Chembarathi (Hibiscus)

to Chinnu (Anjana Harish) 
TW: Suicide  

Did your Amma tell you too
that the chembarathi was a sign of madness?
My Amma did. You know, because Pappu
the ‘madman comic’, wears it before Dr. Sunny
gently ‘fixes’ him with a knock to his head, 
after saving Ganga from Nagavalli’s Ghost
in Manichitrathazhu, cult
psychological horror where women are
both accused & victim.
Chembarathi became this Madness–
through repetition, internal rhymes 
of malayalam comedy,
dialogue our families love quoting with
umpteen rules about being the right Malayali 
penne, all straight, like the 
goddamn pasta. Did you like penne? Or did you
like Parotta, maida layers & oil, quintessential
Malayali food? I’m an idiyappam person though.
I–I mean–my hair is as straight 
as its steamed, squished noodles. You would
get this joke. I can’t translate 
the joke to Malayalam–no words
for us, not any I know. 
You might have; you studied Malayalam, but
your Amma didn’t understand 
it anyway. I can guess. Her first
question must have been are you 
mad? I know how Ammas are. To try help you,  
she took you to school, church, therapy, where 
they knocked you around to
put sense in you/get english nonsense out, 
like a stuck chala fish-bone
they can heimlich out & not 
our ribs, cracking into heart.
Curious me googled ‘chembarathi’ and result:
represents the feminine. trope twisted stigma.
Did you know the lifespan of a chembarathi 
at full bloom was one day?
That’s how long the news cared. I dug 
through the articles for weeks, found photos 
of you smiling with her, both in matching red
and that you went by Chinnu instead – a pet-name, 
from your chosen family? Or maybe pen-name? 
We are no Kamala Das & even she went 
by Madhavikutty. I get it. 
our day to be an open book is not 
here yet.


Glossary
chembarathi – Hibiscus
chala – A type of fish commonly eaten in Kerala
Penne – Girl in Malayalam (in latin letters)
Manichitrathazhu – a famous psychological thriller/horror in Malayalam Cinema.
Kamala Das – Malayali poet and writer, famous/controversial for her depictions of same-sex relations in her poetry/autobiography/fiction
idiyappam  – A steamed rice noodle cake common to Southern India, often eaten with curries
Parotta – A type of bread, with Beef Fry; it is the most well known food in Kerala.

Written by Rouha.
Photograph by Nydia Blas, “Untitled” from The Girls Who Spun Gold, 2016.

Lapsap

404bd73e635018ce0cba485ce0401937

 

­­Lapsap1

que es esto queso2,
yellow qwerty wrestle
mania, grind it, mortar and
armia
nettle, barbed rainbow
barbie queer, angular
tri, un-bi assed
faster than mullet train3, accessible to Tokyo
took you a boxer, battle a hypnotic tosser,
Imaginary home, friends Jodie
monster curled,
awkwardly terrifying, terryfolds4
antiquely terror manigolds
untold aunties, Farquaad5
lardless, heartless
gutless, mutt’n
slut on, suit off
suite here, site there
might have fought where
bright brave roughed,
what hat hath brought fright
freight through boroughs?

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx(oh wait, we can’t take trains)

 

1been from a dump, moldering
bouldering, unfoldering
2what is this cheese, camer
a shutter, butter
flies away, winged scale is
too heavy to suckle
3buckle up, a safe gun
there’s a snake in my chamber
of Ryan – the New Year kind
when the ball drop, stop and roll
4Rick (read back), a green
portal is venomless, vehement
Grapflorpian, too much liquor,
time to drain the
5gingerbread man!

 

Written by Garreth Chan.
Artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Self Portrait as a Heel”.

Limpieza pa’ la Tristeza

IMG_6751

 

Estoy triste
so I’ll light my candles
one by one
and when all the candles are on
and all the lights are off,
i’ll draw the blinds open
so the neighbors can’t see
and the moon can trickle in
to heal the wounds
the daylight sun rays left behind,
i’ll open the window
to change the air in my room
the way doctors change
the blood in a dead body for preservation chemicals,
no,
the way a snake sheds its skin to grow a new one,
yes,
and then I’ll light the incense
while I turn on the shower

I’ll take a hot shower, with the bathroom door open, so the steam will fill up my bathroom, and then flood my room, empañando el vidrio, fogging the glass, and with the heat, my pores will open, like cactus flowers in the morning sun, and to remind myself I’m in my body, and it’s all I’ll ever own, I’ll clean it like a cat licking its fur, slowly, to heal, to enjoy it, to move on, to pass the time, to feel, and when I’m still in the shower I’ll scrub my hair with apple vinegar and water to take out the bad luck, spirits and oil like abuela and Reema said, the water will trickle down my face, flooding my wide pores, and I’ll wash off the salty remains with my face looking up at the sky and then I’ll rinse it all off, I treat my showers the way characters in books do, a shower or a bath is rebirth in my high school English class, now naked and still dripping, I’ll step out to the sink, look in the mirror and think how odd my body looks when the steam fogs the mirror, it makes all the colors blur, shapes get confused and I can’t tell where my hips end and where the toilet seat begins, I’ll dry my face to tone it with rose water and lavender extract and then I’ll spray it with the aloe I blended with hand-picked rose petals, I’ll dig up the coffee I don’t drink to exfoliate rub my face my butt my stretch marks, my bloated belly and swollen feet and then I’ll lay on my floor to rest until my thoughts start slipping away into a light dream, that’s how I’ll know it’s time to get up and shower again, a final cleaning to wash off the salt, I’ll rinse with cold water and think about the candles, they have been burning for too long, and I’ll realize my aloe also needs a shower, my journal needs ink, my head needs my pillow, the book on my window sill needs to be read, and my dried flowers need to be hung so I’ll rinse and step out again,I’ll feel a bit better, clearer, more fresh, but before crawling in bed I have one last step, a thick Aztec clay mask, I’ll spread it evenly on my skin, with a brush I’ll pretend my face is a canvas and the clay the paint, I’ll spread it until my face turns grey like the moon on my looking glass, and then comes the music, a fifteen minute salsa freestyle dance between my bed and my desk with a broom sweeping the floor and my hair tucked tight behind my ears and when the last beat sounds, I’ll wash my face with cold water again and then add a drop of maqui berry oil, I picked maqui in Santiago when the days got warmer and my skin got darker, I’ll spray one more time, moisturize in a circular motion with the tip of my fingers and I’ll be fresh, I’ll blow out the candles, read, sleep and I’ll be ready to wake up again.

 

Image by William Eggleston

 

The Pills are the Only Proof

if a crime continues to occur regardless of the enormous evidence available then is the crime invisible or the evidence invisible or are both visible but not seen?

I remember. Baba said:

“Quit your job and I will start a business for you.”

“I was at work, woman, I am tired. Be rational.”

“I am not going out with you wearing those rags.”

“Always on the phone but it’s never about money. Should we get you a job as a telephone operator?”

“I see your daughter has decided to become a prostitute now.”

“I tested negative.”

“Why do you always cry when I have done nothing to you?”

“Your whole family is retarded.”

“I keep helping your family, I never complain.”

“You are good for nothing.”

“Why would you give your school things to your mother? What does she know?” 

“You look so old.”

“Why weren’t you more welcoming?”

“I never have peace in this house.”

“I didn’t beat her, she fell.”

“I didn’t beat her, she fell.”

“How are other men so lucky with finding good wives?”

“It was one-time thing; she meant nothing. It won’t happen again.”

“It was one-time thing; she meant nothing. It won’t happen again.”

 “It was one-time thing; she meant nothing. It won’t happen again.”

“It was one-time thing; she meant nothing. It won’t happen again.”

 “It was one-time thing; she meant nothing. It won’t happen again.”

“I tested negative.”

If every moment contains the possibility of being alive and being dead, then could an acute awareness of every moment also create an acute consciousness of living and dying?

“It’s been a while Alpha, you look healthy. How is your mother?”

xxxxxxx“I don’t know, I haven’t seen her.”

“Is this what she told you to say? Speak up boy.”

xxxxxxx“I don’t know.”

“Everyone back home is shocked about why she would run away; all I have ever done is love your mother.”

xxxxxxx“Baba stop!”

“Don’t take that tone with me, I still pay for all of this. You seem to forget.”

xxxxxxx“She is sick now…you made her sick. Mama is dying. How could you?”

“Crying like your mother again. I swear it’s like I had all daughters.”

xxxxxxx“She is safe. She is not going back Baba, we won’t let her go back.”

“Be careful boy, remember who I am. Remember you all would have been and will be nothing without me.”

xxxxxxx“Baba!”

“Your mother is a laughingstock; tell me one bad thing I have ever done to her.”

xxxxxxx“Get out!” 

If we could separate every glance from the next, then could we separate our perception of what each consecutive glance is seeing?

“Mama, what did you want to be when you grew up?”

xxxxxxx“I wanted to be free, Alpha. To be free.”

Italic text sourced from Amar Kanwar’s exhibition The Sovereign Forest, courtesy of Ishara art foundation

Photo by Dalvin Mwamakula

Companion

hansol choi 3

frozen in one place
roaming thoughts of lives elsewhere:
view from my window 

room teeming with life
people eat, laugh, talk at once:
my polaroid wall

need for affection
the warmth of quality time:
pet a virtual cat

 

Artwork by Hansol Choi

Serenading a Wild God

By Jon Terranova
kenton nelsen charitably inclined
I passed through valleys
and fields
that swept with
golden glint,
They’d been developed
from indifferent sun rays
that kept us still

Oh! the things we forget
when we stir nerves in flux
the nonsense of day to day
bread ensconcing us numb.

the distractions, the passive
life, the bourgeois boredom
the petty holidays where they ski
and slurp,
shooting down slopes
like smirking berks

We’ve cancelled the fumes
and the arrogance of man
‘I’m in charge of my own destiny’

No, you’re not, my children
for I am!

I’m serenading a wild God
whose wrath is Cain’s blood
running through the ruthless force
of nature, and why these things
happen they ponder…?
Whilst continuing their
own selfish pursuits of
pleasure.

I’m serenading a wild God
and free will
is done
through his son, who
when frozen on a wooden cross,

before the spear split his side
let
out a cry
eloi eloi lama sabacthani!

May these dark
and hopeless times remind us
that we are not in control
and that hope lurks
only in the blood Of Christ

 

Artwork by Kenton Nelson