Cities and Splits

City Sea

This city unfolds along a watery spine. Small fishing hooks dip into the water from both sides, and white birds rest among the waves. In a park, a child wearing rubber boots topples into a flock of pigeons. A golden dog closes its eyes. Some buildings here are also Russian dolls: a church inside a mosque inside a museum. Your fingernails might split when you try to peel back the layers. The light here streams through small windows, and splinters into spider threads that breeze against your face. You will try to collect the thread, and it will always disappear by the time you return home, but if you’re lucky you’ll find a baby spider in your pocket. Leave it on your favourite windowsill and watch.

City Caves

Driving there you will think you’re seeing faces in the rock. Coney caves spiral up in the valley, with smoke pouring from their tops. A woman mourned her lost child here by carving her way into every rock with a spoon. Inside each cave there are endless rooms.

City Underneath

This city was built underground following a small disaster. One day, a woman sat alone outside and a raven landed beside her. After a brief hesitation, she stood up and moved away, but the raven followed her. It hopped and cawed and no matter where she went it followed. She saw a picnic blanket abandoned in the grass and rolled herself in it to avoid the raven’s gaze. But more birds arrived. Their beaks glistened and their throats bobbed. Still more circled overhead until the sky was a thick, dark cloud.
The old men had seen a black sky like this before, and began making tunnels in their basements to hide their wives and children in. While the tunnels became rooms, which branched into more tunnels, the ravens flapped around the woman’s head and their claws got caught in her hair. More ravens came and the sun disappeared behind them and things began to crumble as they tore out chunks. The city tunnelled faster. They even had rooms for livestock, baptisms, and making wine.

Artwork by Ilona Szalay “Injury.”

Spell Criminal With a ‘K’

Trump, the other day, was speaking at a rally, and he said,
‘She has no memory of how she got to the party.
Should we trust that she remembers the assault?’

There are those who have the privilege
of forming memories
editing autobiographies
and tearing out the pages
that make their worm bodies squirm
in the cocoon that raised them
from which they call
rotten silk over
what I know

So I will start with what I do not know
I do not remember
the dress and flats for preschool graduation
second grade and who I sat with at lunch
when my mom began brushing the Latina
out of my curls
when I told myself I could not kiss Sabrina
because I was supposed to kiss Richard
and maybe didn’t want to kiss either

to bury myself
in woodchips and honeycomb
until the fast forward
to high school when homecoming is a sweat smear
and the bottomless pit of sophomore year
behind the tapestry I taped up for the outside
looking in

And the answer is ‘yes.’ And I’ll tell you why.

The five year old, the nine year old, the teenager,
the woman remembers
fist flurry against the dog
fist thunder around her skull
fist explosion beside her ear
fist rattle inside her brain
almost loud enough to numb
every hotspot for a lightning strike

Jolt to the back
Jolt to the back
Jolt to the spine

skin charred after being told
it should be metal
it does not notice the fingers
of sparks on her neck
her belly
the chest that won’t
grow until the teenage phase
and it never does
even after the hurricane

And I also know this woman is smart because she’s a
psychologist — she’s no dummy. If someone is
assaulted or experiences trauma, there’s science and
scientific proof — it’s biology — that people change.
The brain changes.

The rain dries and I don’t grow
no blossoming, no flowers
to pluck
someone calls my name and no one walks across the stage
I have transformed, transfigured
This is evolution
This is my initiation to the wild
circle under the blood moon
my sisters, my brothers, my fellow survivors,
give ourselves
give our oath
the girls, the silent boys, the humans drawn without lines
turned skin to fur, we gave
our tongues and teeth

We are fangs and growls
we are animal now
the hunters made us this way
we are a pack
inhabiting the space
where ancestral bones lay

What it does is it takes the trauma and it puts it in a
box and it files it away and shuts it so that we can
survive the pain. And it also does a lot of other things.
It can cause body pain. It can cause baseline
elevations in anxiety.

I can’t tell you of an intruder in my fox den
but the wolverine can
the raccoon can
the Bengal tigress can
the mother bear and her cubs can
Christine, Stefani, Amy, Fran, Tyler, Maya can

The mammoths are no longer here
to speak
but I know they have a truth
to tell
for them, I can

They demand to know how we distinguish camouflage
and the answer is we don’t:
the faces are imprinted on our irises
the bullets are embedded in our flesh
under the fur
but they still want to take a sword to our skin
and check

It can cause complete avoidance of not wanting to
even remember or think about what happened to you.
But what I believe that I have seen is that when this
woman saw that Judge Kavanaugh was going to be
possibly put in the highest position of power in the
judicial system of this country, she was triggered, and
that box opened.

We keep the bullets and their holes
sometimes the lead turns us to decay
sometimes we plant metal and grow
a mountain,
sometimes they call it a cloud.
But mostly they assign a name
a hunter’s name, with our blood
we evolve
a century later, a mountain range
we climb Everest, surpass Elysium
we founded Olympus Mons and from the peak

we scream Our Names
We rattle the stars,
we are the next great flood,
we march on every cocoon
screaming Our Names

Sometimes we ache
when a lock clicks
when floorboards moan
when hunters take aim
even with empty guns
when we tell the story of the mammoths
when we see taxidermied heads over fireplaces
when their fireworks detonate and music blares
and they take one of us
to shoot us all over again

but still we will roar Our Names
bleed and bleed and bellow Our Names
and no hunter will ever climb this mountain
no puppet president will mount us
The rapists/hunters/president/judge will never own
Our Names.

And when that box opened, she was brave enough to share it with the world to protect this country.
Lady Gaga

Artwork by Yung Cheng Lin

No Vagina Required: Testament

Thou shalt not tolerate the bullshit of man
Thou shalt bare nipples in response to shame
Thou shalt release the clitoris from captivity
Thou shalt interrupt a trampling of a fellow non-male
Thou shalt denounce any and all venomous cocks
Thou shalt burn the corsets and pinch-waist mannequins
Thou shalt condemn the taxation and price of a uterus
Thou shalt raise thy voice, when the men come to make phantoms
Thou shalt refuse invisibility
Thou shalt not be complacent or tolerant

You must defy.


Artwork by Eero Lampinen “Girls”