Session Two Anthology
MENTOR: Melissa Lozada-Oliva
My nani holds the blister on her foot in her hand and rocks
to the music on the T.V. screen, a guitar and strobe-light
fingers. An American man swimming above a pool
of hands. Does she know
this country and its country
singers with their accents that curve
like long hair, wavy and wrapped
free? She forgot herself
in Pakistan when she was eleven and fell
into India. No one there knocked on her door
except strangers with chai and thoughts
about skin color—so cracked—and smiles
that leave room for gaps. No one there
held their breath under the coffee
table or hoped their dresses were long
enough. The dresses in which my nani wraps herself do not
flow like the waves on the screen to which she points
and laughs. A blue voice
from the T.V. hurls itself into our room and curls
as if it is a hand, fingers sore from rowing. She gasps, how millions of white
and blue balloons could flood the stage and make you forget
you have a voice, underwater.
Adi Gandhi is a participant in the Speakeasy Project's Summer 2017 session.
The Borrowing of Gul Mudin
Images through distances meet eyes casting shadows
No one wants to know your negative opinions about them
No one wants these words to float like pollen through fertile poppy fields
Like dust kicking up with a wind so strong all is covered in thickening layers of it
Settling in the crevices of loafers not meant for boys, but for men
Whose feet don’t leave excess space for them to slide and flop with each step
Did you try to run in them?
Did you trip into target because of them?
Did this heirloom that left your father barefoot fail you?
Shoes that lay loosely on your feet barely hanging
From toes now burying under wind’s shovel
White grains fine enough to land on each of your eyelash hairs
Filling the spaces between your exposed teeth
Pale sand camouflaging pale skin
Did you hope for air to save you?
Did you gasp for sovereignty?
Did your mother keep you indoors?
Away from the sun
Away from the sons of foreign fathers
Whose pride does not reach them here
So they have to make their own trophies
Did he hold your hand while pulling medic shears from a nearby pocket?
Did he hold your hand the way he held your brother’s hand for the photo days before?
Were you surprised at how easily metal cut through your flesh to pinky bone?
The sun does not choose to be, it just is
The sun does not choose what it gives color to, it just gives
Currant red for the ridged ribbon hung with award
Currant red coagulating to black in pale sand
Crn Contreras is a queer Chicanx poet from the Bay Area. Their poems are meant to bring light to their neck of the world by spotlighting queer kid struggles as a first generation Mexican American. Currently on California's Central Coast, Crn is an advocate for victims of crime during the day and cocktail mixer by night. Crn's working on their first chapbook, Orbit.
leave your bombs by the gate they say
no guns here they tell us
no bulletproof vests
syringes must be broken
and cars left outside
we ask the waiter for a smoke
he disappears in a fog of green
the police tried to come for us
we smiled and blew colored smoke in their faces
we coated the streets in it
and dipped our fingers
drew lines across our faces
but we didn’t want to call it that
(they fell and dropped and
bled green dew)
we spraypaint our tears over the walls
because we think the walls need to be
freed and full
we play music and dance around pyres
but our feet tap to
the clattering of spray cans
and rainbows streaking into dust
skulls peer out of angel’s trumpets
green sea eyes stare
over rainbow cities
serpents curl around windows and grime
welcome melts in waxy skatepark curves
bike to the cafe every morning
when we get there, we
press our hands
to the seven slim fingers
of the marijuana leaf
we scrape white dust off
the bathroom floor
gather it under our nails
claw at the plaster walls
our skin is already scratched flaking raw
Danya Wang is a rising high school junior from Saratoga, California. She is a poetry reader for the Lawrenceville School's literary magazine, and a staff writer for its online publication The Line. She has received a Gold Key from the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and been recognized by various regional competitions. She spent this summer marveling at painted benches and double tornado warnings during the Iowa Young Writer's Studio.
I’M 10 YEARS OLD AND WEARING MY FIRST PAIR OF SHORT-SHORTS.
Real short-shorts, the kind my older sisters wear when they go to the lake and refuse to get their hair wet. Watching the way my thighs bust out the hem, I feel like 100 bucks — more money than I’ve held in my whole life. I descend the stairs to the living room like I’m the star of every Disney Princess movie I’ve ever fast-forwarded through. One hand glides along the bannister, ready to lift into a royal parade wave. The other lingers between my thighs, tugging at the fabric that keeps rolling towards my pelvis. On the couch, my mom drinks cocktails with the moms of my Catholic school friends. Their clothes are department store crisp, size six or below. When they see me, they laugh the kind of laugh I’ve only heard from tables of teen girls at the mall. Their drinks are still fizzing in the giggles. One mom leans in, says God, she’s got some Thunder Thighs, doesn’t she?
My mom laughs again, bubbles still on her breath, and I swell up. I can’t imagine any compliment better than Thunder Thighs. I want to stamp “THUNDER THIGHS” across the ass of these shorts, paint it on my locker, wave it in the face of every friend who’s ever acted prettier than me. I strut out of that room like I’m on America’s Next Pre-Pre-Teen Model, my smile stretching tighter than the denim pressed against my belly. When my thighs rub together, slick and raw, I think God, so this is what it feels like when the storm claps.
I don’t wonder what those women are thinking. I assume they, too, are admiring the cellulite like divine fingerprints on the back of my thighs. Didn’t know they were trying to teach me to carve away at myself. To covet their slender calves and the way their rings looked, sparkling on bony knuckles. Later, my mom says Lia, if you were thin, you’d be such a bombshell. And I’m confused. I thought I was already an explosion.
Lia Hagen is a 20-year-old queer creative from the cosmopolitan metropolis of Omaha, Nebraska. The only thing she loves more than writing poetry is editing it. Other interests include making zines, writing fiction, and taking selfies she'll never post.
let me show you all the ghosts i can count in my sleep.
let me show you how to build an ocean of anxiety
that could maybe take me home. ask me where i am
from & i will laugh & say nowhere. i have my own name
& do not need the number you assign. do not need
your silence because i choose my own quiet. give me time
& i will tell you how i became this way. how i became
child of both depression & diaspora. let me in
& i will tell you how i can be both sad & still here.
how even my sadness can smile, eat cake, & celebrate
that i got out of bed this morning. how this is all proof
of how much i want to forgive my heart for unlearning
its own gentle grace. i just want to be allowed to live
here. i want it to be legal for us to sleep sometime.
i stayed inside my apartment all day but at least
i opened the windows. i cried in the shower but at least
i could still scrub my shoulders clean. i have allowed too
many doctors & documents decide which parts of me are worthy
of dissection. the truth is: i have never been unhealthy or unwhole—
only sad. i have memorized how this type of soft, this trying,
the way this kind of quiet works. how to let discomfort
thaw slowly on my tongue & swallow the hushed pieces
left behind. the lullaby that tries to coax me to bed is one that
i know by heart—but this time, i sleep without sinking.
Yujane Chen is a queer, disabled im/migrant alien from Taiwan. Their poems are published or forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, the Shade Journal, & elsewhere. They are a 2018 Winter Tangerine Fellow currently working towards a B.A. in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, where they are a student organizer for poets & underrepresented communities of color on campus.