“Please, I can’t breathe.”
This is America.
No, it’s not about freedom,
Quite the opposite.
It’s about class and privilege.
We’re put into boxes,
Divided by the colour our skin.
We are the dividers,
The masters of segregation.
An explicit bolder between the rich and the common folk.
The rich being imperceptible,
And miles away from reality.
The common folk,
Over the lives of the rich.
Profits made by the rich off of common folk,
The common folk too naive,
To understand the devilish scheme.
Maybe she would be busy in the back of the shop, organizing the mugs that Brentwood’s Coffee offered to frequent customers. One after the other, carefully stacking them in their designated spots. The bell on the door would chime suddenly, breaking her out of her reverie. She would startle, almost dropping the coffee mug (but not quite because that would be cliché), and turn quickly to see who it was. She wouldn’t observe anything too specific about the man; perhaps a glimpse of green eyes or the small imperfections in his sweater. He would order something with too much sugar to still qualify as coffee, paying with three singles (keep the change). While he waited for her to prepare his not-even-really-coffee, he would stand off to the side of the counter, eyes buried in his phone. She would of course speculate about what he was reading. Her first guess would be news, but then she would realize that he wasn’t the type and instead would definitely be reading some sports article (but she would have been wrong again: he was hurriedly texting his brother about the cutest girl working in an old coffee shop on Sharpe Lane). Upon completing his oh-my-god-a-milkshake-is-less-sweet-than-this, she would call out his name, horribly mispronouncing it, although they were both too polite to acknowledge it. As she passed him the coffee cup (be careful, it’s hot), he would press a folded piece of paper into her hand (don’t read it until I’m out the door). She would follow his instructions, watching him walk slowly out the door, and then she would hurriedly unwrap the paper, her eyes flicking over the scrawled “call me, coffee shop girl” and the number underneath.
As soon as Lelo fell asleep we went out to the balcony for lunch. Lela made mariquitas and black beans, and I cut an avocado for the salad, then dressed it with olive oil and vinegar. We each served ourselves and took the plates outside to eat.
Neither one of us spoke while we devoured our food. Once I had finished I gazed at the sea for a few minutes; the water was blue and green and old. When I was younger, we would go down to the coast and swim for hours while Lela sat on the rocks and watched. Enrique was always the first to get out of the water because he hated being the only boy. Soon after, my grandmother would ask us all to get out; the rocks always smelled like excrement and trash. Then she would wrap us up in towels and take us inside and we would drink hot chocolate and eat the tamales she had made for dinner the night before, even though I never liked tamales. When my cousins moved to Miami, we stopped swimming as often, and on the days that we did go down to the coast, Enrique only ever put his feet in the water, and I was always too cold to swim for more than fifteen or twenty minutes.
“My mother doesn’t want me to marry you.
I’m sorry; I don’t think we can hold it anymore."
As his words shot her at the heart,
The blood drained from her face
and her thoughts collapsed in her mind.
He showed resistance through ignorance
Her dawning eyes pleaded,
Engulfing a river of tears
And the rest being bouldered by
The back of her hand.
coal cracks into diamonds.
search deep within your crevices and mine
all that is black and impure to be harvested as
our garish garnishes
until the walls of your pericardium are pinkish and raw.
probe your weaknesses and gouge them out
**Content warning: suicide.
A lonesome girl,
Cursed by life.
Her eyes veil mysteries,
And she maliciously grips a knife.
Her aggression in the form of a knife,
Lay by her at the hush of night.
The gruesome darkness at witching hour,
Casts a spell of overdosing devour.
Joy: a feeling of great pleasure or happiness. Alternatively: a chemical reaction. Alternatively: a necessary survival instinct. Also: yellow stains on glaring white teeth, gregarious roaring in a public place, the tickle that runs down your hand when you enter somewhere great.
Depression: feelings of severe despondency and dejection. Alternatively: a chemical reaction. Alternatively: a necessary survival instinct. Seen in: written-journals collecting dust, a letter never sent, the drop in my heart when I realize I no longer love.
I'm shot in the streets.... dead
I'm ridiculed in shops... oppressed by my appearance
I'm body shamed on the daily for my curves and forms of bodily expression
I get told that i'm an ANgRY BlacK WOmaN that doesn't deserve to be in this world
I yell... I'm mad
I cry... I'm emotional
I express my opinion... and I'm uneducated
Go to the northern side of Pakistan. There's a valley over there; Neelum Valley. Go to the Army Cantt in Neelum Valley, and now sit quietly outside your room on the stairs. Do you feel the nature breathing? As the chilly wind blows around you, do you wonder what it carries within it? Maybe incomplete love stories from the border to a lonely home. Do you feel at peace as this wind kisses your cheek and you know that the one you have been waiting for will be back soon? Do you feel the autumn leaves slowly falling to the ground beneath you, one foot down and this leave will crunch, it will die completely as the sound of its last futile breath makes you feel alive from the inside? Do you listen to the river flowing through the dark nights, do you hear it gushing and roaring? Every roar of this river is a threat to some people and a breath to you. And above you, do you see the infinite stars shining and glistening at you?
The etchings on the sloped ceiling feel a little lower today,
they wade above, looming like a dejected tapestry―
shrouding me, from whatever waits beyond the two doors.
I hear the first click, then wood sliding against a dusty carpet,
a second click, then the shadow stretches across a mahogany hallway.
But what if I stayed in the waiting room,
under the looming tapestry, and the ornate carpet,
the smell of lavender masking an antique musk,
the buzz of a building well-lived in,
and the creaks from below and above.
dancing in the
Sometimes I tell myself I’m crazy; and perhaps I am. Perhaps everything is all in my head. Nothing is real anymore, no, it never was. Just made- up feelings in a made-up world to press the feeling of happiness into my gossamer heart.
Perhaps the craziness comes from my relentless hold. I believe that, too, sometimes. I am unhealthy to myself, my hands are getting tired of holding, and I see it with my eyes as the rope grows thinner and weaker but in hopes that something, anything, will come back, my fingers grip a little harder until they are blue and unfeeling, and I see this only helps my struggle.
November 22nd, 2019
I’m going to try to get this over with quickly and save us both a little heartbreak. I think it goes without saying that this is my last letter. I’m sorry that it’s come to this; there is no way for me to change what is about to happen, no matter how intensely I wish I could. The last year and one month with you have given me the perspective I’ve been craving since my accident. It’s amazing the joy and purpose that comes from a few typewritten pages from you every couple of weeks. I’ll forever be grateful for the short time I was able to have by your side as your days here dwindled down into a few last minutes on an execution table—the world has a sick sense of humor, doesn’t it?
The children are starving.
Their hearts are hungry, and their voices are raw.
They crowd the streets, screaming to be heard.
They say our phones are all we care for. No, our phones are our escape.
Social media hears our pleas.
Where presidents fail, social media begs for our voices to be heard.
A pandemic, global warming, racism.
What will it take for our voices to be heard?
I applaud you, Gen Z.
In the face of adversity, we do what world leaders won’t.
I fear you, Gen Z.
What will we do when we are unleashed on the world?
We are making real change.
We spend our whole lives being told that we can do anything,
as long as we do our best.
But what if our best isn’t good enough?
It doesn’t feel like your best if you’re comparing
your life to others' lives.
Your journey to others’ journeys.
Written in the style of Lorrie Moore.
When you’re in first grade, your mom will tell you to pick an instrument. “To be a well rounded person, you shouldn’t just be good at school, you should have skills in other areas of life too," your mom will say. You will only be, like, six or seven years old, so you won’t really get it. You’ll just shrug your shoulders and hope that being a well rounded person doesn’t include playing sports too. Off the top of your head, you pick the violin because you don’t want to play something you have to blow into.
i climbed back over a bridge just
for you, my family.
just to have one more dinner together
around our scratched up kitchen table
with the too sharp corners and
the stains from years of thanksgivings.
just to slow dance
with mommy in the kitchen
while daddy sings along to the
clatter of dishes he places in the sink.
Life was simple.
The air was clear.
I was happy;
I had life-
it was what I wanted.
Without warning you
You were a thief.
With that, I changed.
when Waltzing Alone in an abandoned ballroom
is deemed insanity
i will set myself alight
dousing myself in belladonna-infused gasoline,
perfuming my bones like death peeling back my skin
with the tulle of my skirt wet with fallen rain and
unfulfilled prophecies, words caught from northern
invention created from these newborn hands,
calluses on the fingertips.
pieces of history forced down my throat, tasting like
raw coffee beans and broken lipsticks
my character shoes prancing on marble
the statues on the wall judging my form,
why does your admiration for me drop with each inch that my neckline plunges?
femininity is a fierce thing, but surely, you’ve spit venom at more formidable women than i
does the fluorescent glint of the light off my bare shoulders blind you so?
does the fabric of my velvet mini-skirt threaten to choke, and do the loose frills of my rose-
colored cardigan murmur threats of tangling your neck in a noose?
does skin scare you, sir? and if it does, why dare to whisper to the enemy?
when treading the den of a snake, you fear her poison—do you tell her this, too?
“Verena!” A boy growled and followed his much smaller and mischievous partner into the shadows.
They weren’t partners in a romantic sense, though the girl was certainly attracted to him. No, the girl was one of the most feared and elusive assassins in all of Avianor, and at only age 16 she had slain more men than were on the Emperor’s Guard.
The boy loathed her. As the Captain of the Guard, he was constantly running after her, cleaning up her messes and keeping her out of trouble.
The Captain was in charge of the girl’s safety. You would think the heir to an empire would sit in meetings all day, but Verena was different. Darker somehow and always aching to avenge her mother’s untimely demise. Odd, as her mother had passed away when Verena was only 8 years old
now & then i’ll remember how i felt before
she saw me:
a stray planet hurtling out of orbit
eighteen years of grabbing at passing debris
left my fingernails cracked and bloody
i cursed my weak hands
until she, gravity, pulled me
thoughts on having a girlfriend who lives 22 miles away during a nationwide lockdown by Lucy Butler (20, United Kingdom)
I’m trying to take things hour by hour,
by which I mean at 8am
I’ll be thinking
this is usually when the sunrise wakes me,
creeping through the slit in the curtains
that she never shuts completely,
a golden gash of day,
bleeding onto my side of her bed,
onto my eyelids,
into my dreams
until I’m no longer asleep.
Her face, glossed with the light of dawn,
is the first thing I see.
I pinch my skin, just in case.
Prince Charming is the jewel
You spend your whole life looking for,
The prize that affirms your worth
Through kisses and words of love,
The perfect man, who shields you
From your mundane existence.
Prince Charming, whose elegance
Overshadows your clumsiness,
Whose muscled arms distract
From the scars on your arms,
Whose winning smiles erase
The hatred so many have for you.
Is like a clap of thunder
The gun shot just before
The race begins.
It’s all excitement, all pressure
The constant grind
To transform from a piece of coal
Into a diamond.