‘Under My Bed’ by Greg Santos

I keep my umbilical cord in a box.
Nobody knows of its existence but me.

Every night I take it out of its snug home,
recite prayers to it before sleeping.

I’m not sad but I cannot stop crying.
It sings me lullabies to soothe my colicky brain.

It twitches at the sound of my voice,
sometimes curves into a crimson smile.

 


GREG SANTOS is the author of Blackbirds (Eyewear Publishing, 2018), Rabbit Punch! (DC Books, 2014), and The Emperor’s Sofa (DC Books, 2010). He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. He regularly works with at-risk communities and teaches at the Thomas More Institute. He is the poetry editor of carte blanche and lives in Montreal with his wife and two children.

Copyright © 2018 by Greg Santos. All rights reserved.

‘You Enter a Wilderness’ by Greg Santos

FOG-MIND
on anxiety

You enter
a wilderness.
Another flare up.

Bats in an attic,
your thoughts get locked in together,
wings jostling for importance.

You feel your heart racing,
you put your fingers to your neck,
your wrist, back to your chest.

No sign of a heartbeat.
Did it somehow sneak out of your chest,
a thief into the night?

You focus on the crack of moonlight
through the door.
Maybe your heart snuck out that way.

You somehow remember the moon is a mirror.
That thought momentarily comforting,
before your thoughts cloud over once again.

You can only wait
for this fog-mind to dissipate,
but who knows how long it will last?

 


THAT MOMENT

My mind is doing jumping jacks.
Only my beloved, our doctor, and I know.

I am used to sending off my poems into the unknown.
They go forth like little pioneers.

But this is different.
It is the hum before the computer shuts down.

It is that moment after the movie trailers end
but before the feature presentation begins.

The exact second when the dog
spots the popcorn kernel hovering mid-air.

It is the tick before the tock,
the instant before the clock strikes midnight.

That jolt of electricity before lips first touch.
It is the moment before the line turned blue.

And again the moment before another turned blue a
second time, just to be sure.

 


INVISIBLE GUESTS

Alone in our apartment
I notice how quiet it really is without you.

The creak of my chair, the clicks as I type,
my breathing, the hum of the fridge:

sounds I took for granted,
amplified by your absence.

Tapping from within the walls, mice perhaps,
dull breathing of heating vents, the apartment

filling with invisible guests.
I put on Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

Voices of ghosts
to keep me company.

 


GREG SANTOS is the author of Blackbirds (Eyewear Publishing, 2018), Rabbit Punch! (DC Books, 2014), and The Emperor’s Sofa (DC Books, 2010). He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. He regularly works with at-risk communities and teaches at the Thomas More Institute. He is the poetry editor of carte blanche and lives in Montreal with his wife and two children.

Copyright © 2018 by Greg Santos. All rights reserved.

‘Hands-On Study of Hands II’ by Minahil Khan

 


MINAHIL KHAN, or ‘Mina’ for short, is a CEGEP student at Marianopolis College studying Arts & Sciences. When she isn’t studying, you can find her reading dystopian and mystery novels, or drawing people she knows.

Copyright © 2018 by Minahil Khan. All rights reserved.

‘Dora Milaje’ by Seydina Touré

dora-milaje-1.jpg

 


SEYDINA TOURÉ is a fan of animated works and comics, and is also a hobby artist. He typically reaches for the pencil to get his mental juices flowing again.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Seydina Touré. All rights reserved.

 

 

‘An Ode to Dandelions and the In-Between’ by Eden Rosenbloom

There’s this one week in May where my all-too-comfortable corner of Montreal grows abundant with dandelions. The Yellow Week, the name under which my written recollections from the 9th up until the 15th of Taurus season were categorized under in my constellation-covered journal, contained letters of gratitude to the universe for planting the warmer tones of the colour spectrum around me. The city was painted an artificial lemon that made my glass-half-empty soul finally feel half-full. The perennials bloomed even on Sainte-Catherine Street, whose patches of unconvincing soil only existed because Montreal refuses to conform to being a true concrete forest. I see so much of my teenage self in the workings of this city, for the both of us had a constant yearning to set ourselves apart from the crowd.

The Yellow Week has always managed to thaw the memories of my seasonal depression that turned my baby blues into moribund greys. The mere scent of spring and everything after cued the honey-like trumpet in Louis Armstrong’s La Vie En Rose, and despite my mother’s idle belief that I was allergic to the dandelions, I remained consistent with pressing them into my history; chemistry; calculus; and civilizations of the Middle Ages textbooks. Even the name made me swoon — it was all so dandy.

There are only pockets of the dandy days that I retain solely from memory, untainted by the words with which I recalled them in great detail in my journals. One of these moments was during the final days of the seventh grade, which should officially be known as The Worst Year In Any Middle To Upper Class North American’s Life. Zoe and I were at my childhood park, gossiping about older girls and cute boys as we sat on top of the hill that once seemed to exist beyond the clouds, but that now gave me an underwhelming feeling of superiority, for we thought far too highly of ourselves to resort to the swing set. We spent the afternoon baking under the no-longer-absent sun, as most Canadians do the moment the temperature gage reaches anything above twelve degrees. When we finally stood up, our limbs feeling fuzzy, Zoe’s shirt was no longer the shade of white it was earlier that day, but a patchy, dandelion yellow — the hue mocked us for our naivety. We spent the evening in my bathroom, with Zoe leaning over the tub, using a bar of soap to scrub out the pollen, and me, with a blow-dryer in my hand, all in an attempt to avoid a scolding from Zoe’s mother. She yelled at her anyway.

A few years later, I was graduating high school, and that final month of government-required education filled us all up with an indescribable feeling of nostalgia that anyone over the age of 18 will undoubtedly understand. Thirty of us decided to spend a Saturday morning in the field a few blocks away from school, and despite my hostility towards the majority of my high school experience, I chose to come along. We spent the day lying on our backs, shoving vegan food into our mouths, and playing Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours out of a portable speaker. The past four years of self-doubt and insecurities was at last coming to a close, and for the first time, instead of seeking validation from those whom I considered friends merely out of convenience, I sought out comfort within myself, lying in the bed of dandelions and smiling ever so slightly because I had made it. The dandelions were always there to set me free.

I cherished them just the same in June, following their metamorphoses. In fact, I blew a wish on them every  chance I got — for new Crayola markers, ice cream after dinner, a friend to skip rope with, a passing mark on the geography test, the rain to stop, fitting into my jeans, a new puppy, the boy to love me back, getting into college, things to work out. Despite my knowing that my wish would have no impact on the inevitable reality, I adored the notion of it all — humans, no matter the age, turning to nature for a little extra help.

I loved them before and I loved them after. In their days of yellow sunshine and in their nights of making dreams come true. I will continue to love them in all of their forms, though I am most drawn to them in their in-between stage of life. In the days when they are no longer a flower but not yet a wish, when they fold up into themselves as though hugging their cores for reassurance, whispering that they matter and are loved and will someday be okay. I will always pick those dandelions first.

My favourite things have always been stuck in a state of in-between. The most rosy weeks in my life are when I don’t identify as being an introvert or an extrovert. I wait fifteen minutes for my tea to cool from the kettle, and then drink it within an exceptionally short window of time, before it has the chance to go cold. My bed is coziest when halfway made, a book is the most gripping halfway through, the sunset only intrigues me when it’s sitting half on the ocean and half beyond, as though waiting for someone to shout out “please stay” which is really an “I love you” in disguise. The beauty lies in the balance, in the in-between.

After the boy who made her feel whole again broke her heart, Harriet, a friend whose mind has always travelled in parallel to mine, wrote to me, “I cannot say that I loved him, for it is not past tense, and I cannot say that I love him, for it is not present. There is both an absence and a surplus of emotion that I cannot name in words.” Even through my iPhone speakers, I could hear the trembling in her voice that came from the confusion of her swirling in the void. She was feathered indigo, spiraling into entropy, gradually declining into disorder, while still dancing in this unidentified world of the in-between. This space had no definition.

I am most drawn to the not-yellow-nor-grey dandelions for I, too, spend most of my days as undefinable selves, no longer one thing but not yet another. These are known the in-between days. On the in-between

days, questions like “How are you?” and “Who are you?” prove themselves to be more difficult than any logarithm or confession of guilt can ever be. Like Harriet said, words are never enough, as even syllables manage to formulate an unwanted definition that leaves little room to grow.

Though I accepted my relationship with the in-between days, the world around me rejected it. I had to be happyorsad, quietorloud, boyorgirl, courageousorafraid, smartorstupid, greyoryellow. What if I wanted to be them all at once, or be none at all? What then?

As I learned to navigate myself through the fog of this indescribable uncertainty, the in-between days became the in-between life, and despite society’s resistance to it, I was okay with the void. My sensitivity has always been my most valued quality, as it has given me my heart of a double-edged sword — I experience emotions entirely, on both ends of the spectrum. I have thoughts that can color all the oceans blue. Living in a state of in-between allows me to be everything at once. My days don’t ever feel like just one hue – they can be forest green with a hint of lilac, the maroon that comes with change along with the spark-of-excitement champagne pink, or the murky brown you get when you mix all of the paint colors together. Or, a day of infinite laughter paired with the fear of punishment alongside Zoe. Or the hatred and admiration that comes with parting a version of yourself at 17. Not-yellow-not-grey.

The in-between world is painful and confusing, and it awakens an understanding of my minuteness in the grandeur of our universe, but it allows me to thrive in a world that most only skim over. I join the atoms that are swirling in the unidentified and go beyond definitions. I can be a girl painted baby blue but also made of fire. Regardless of the terror, fogginess, and doubts that come with the unknowing state, it’s uncertainty only excites me.

Perhaps I’ll always be in between grey and yellow. Perhaps during The Yellow Week, the dandelions and I will grow together without definition, catching sunshine and making wishes, creating entire worlds of our own. Perhaps the most delicate of things are often stuck in a state of in-between.

 


EDEN ROSENBLOOM is a writer currently studying Liberal Arts at Dawson College. She is in the midst of figuring out what art means to her and how she defines herself as an artist. Find her on Instagram: @earlgreyeden.

Copyright © 2018 by Eden Rosenbloom. All rights reserved.

‘Délicat’ by Zani Boillat

 

 


ZANI BOILLAT is a writer and independant artist. You’ll find her drawing or taking photographs while listening to some good old Édith Piaf.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Zani Boillat. All rights reserved.

‘Woman Problems’ by Valerie Pleasant

“You know, together I’m pretty sure we make a full woman.” Lynn says, hands behind her head, falling back onto a pillow next to Anne. She pulls her pants back on.

“Might have to check your math on that.” Anne says, cuddling into Lynn’s chest.

“Oh, I can show my work.”

“Please do.” Anne rolls her eyes with a smile, not thinking about much else than the face of the woman she-

“Great!” Lynn says, breaking Anne from her train of thought. “So, I’m a butch transbian, so by most standards I’m literally just a cis-het dude-”

“Wait, is this actually-”

“That somehow manages to trick lesbians into sleeping with me-”

“Babe, stop, I didn’t really-”

“And you’re a very passable femme, you’ve got the look and everything, but you’re not on hormones, so once again: cis-het dude.”

“Baby, I’m sorry for indulging you. Please stop!”

“I’ve got the hormones, you’ve got the dresses, together we’re unstoppable! Or, baseline acceptable, but still good!”

Anne says nothing, and groans into Lynns chest (which, as a sensation, Lynn doesn’t find all that bad. Like it’s not great but she might bring it up sometime. She decides that if she does, it will be some time other than now).

“You asked me to show my work.”

“I learned my lesson. I won’t be asking you to explain anything, ever again… Why the fuck do you get so self-hating ‘but it’s playful so I can’t get called out on it’ after sex, anyway?” Anne asks, lifting herself from Lynn’s chest, though accidentally crushing one of her partner’s breasts (this happens during a growth spurt… They hurt a lot during growth-spurts, okay?) in the process, gaining an absolute howl from Lynn. “Sorry, sorry!”

Lynn cups her breast in care, “Fuck, that hurts!” Lynn takes deep breaths while Anne awkward-panics (lots of movement of the hands) and feels very bad. “It’s fine, it’s fine, I’m fine… Kiss it and make it better, though?” Lynn asks with a smile that shows she is still feeling a fair bit of pain.

“I just did that for a good ten minutes. And don’t dodge the question!”

“Five minutes, I’m pretty sure.” Lynn says. Anne stares at her expectantly, to which she responds, “What question?”

“Lynn!” Anne slams her fists on her knees in that genuinely frustrated way Lynn finds adorable.

“I really am pretty sure it was five minutes.” (It was seven minutes and twelve seconds.)

“If I suck your tit for five more minutes will you answer my fucking question?” Anne asks.

“What question? And yes, you can start whenever you’re ready.” Lynn settles back in bed in a readied position with a smirk, eyes closed.

“You’re not funny.” Anne crosses her arms, and looks away, glowering.

Lynn sees this through one open eye and sighs. She lifts herself from the bed, and hugs Anne from behind, chin resting on her shoulder. Anne makes no recognition of this and continues to avoid eye-contact.

“Okay…I….I went a bit far, I’m sorry. Don’t make that face, I am. I was being stupid, and I’ll stop.” Lynn guides Anne’s chin until they meet each other’s eyes. Anne waits, hopeful. “I really am funny though… like, that wasn’t cool.”

Anne snorts loudly and attempts to escape Lynn’s hug so that her smile isn’t visible. Lynn holds her tight and kisses her. They hug each other close, neither of them particularly wanting to separate and continue the conversation.

Anne separates first, “Tell me. Please.”

Lynn sighs again, but does not let go of Anne, continuing to look into her eyes. She opens her mouth to speak but closes it again, swallows the words that were supposed to come out, and tries again with all new ones, “I… Okay, so, I can look in the mirror. I’m past that point, obviously, but, like,” Lynn hesitates, not wanting to ask this question. “How do you deal with the fact that every time we have sex, a lot of people would look at it like it were two gay men, doing… the things that gay men do?”

Anne takes a moment, hurt by Lynn’s words. “I…I don’t think about other people when I’m with you, Lynn. I think about you. I think about the things I want to do to you, the things I want you to do to me, but mostly I’m just thinking about you and how much I like you — how happy I am that we’re doing… this.” Anne looks down and separates from the hug. Lynn disappointedly lets her. “I definitely don’t think about anyone else and how they might see it.”

“Right, right, god, fuck I’m sorry.” Lynn explains, trying to make her body smaller to get back into Anne’s view, “In the moment you’re all I’m thinking about. In the moment you’re like my fucking world. I love…I love fucking you, I love being with you, I love what we have and have had for a good couple months and I’m honestly so thankful for it. The…the problem is afterwards. When we’re calming down and I see my body and I remember how fucking close I am – how fucking close we are – to being considered women, and yet this fucking thing between my fucking legs keeps fucking stopping me.” Now Lynn looks down. Having said her part, she looks away and moves her mouth to the side like a child unsure of how her apology will be taken.

Anne sighs. “Well fuck…” She looks at Lynn, regretting having asked the question that started this conversation, but she can’t take it back now. Anne hopes to god no one says anything, in fear of ruining what they have. For now, they’ve said enough. “You’re still a girl to me.” Anne hopes Lynn will look up at that, she does not. “And you’re also still a girl to you. I know it’s hard but you need to stop caring what they think you are. You’re a girl, and you know that full well. It’s just those fuckers that think they need to have say on literally fucking everything that disagree. You’re a girl, Lynn.” Lynn wears a faint smile at that, and lifts her head slowly to look at Anne. “Okay, so I want to slap your estrogen-filled boob to illustrate a point I’m about to make, but I know it already hurts so I’m not going to do that-”

“Thank you.” Lynn covers her breast for protection.

“No problem. But you have the parts. Not all girls have boobs, and some guys have boobs, but if that’s what you need then focus on the things that are literally right under your nose, okay?”

“Okay, yeah. Thanks, baby.” Lynn smiles, and then tilts her head, “So, what do you focus on?”

“Huh? Oh, my cock is prettier than yours.” Both women stare at each other for a moment and then laugh and hug once more. They kiss deeply and feel each other’s heat close. While they kiss, eyes closed, neither of them doubt any aspect of themselves. Anne’s hands start to move over Lynn’s back, eliciting a moan. She moves one hand over the front of Lynn’s pants, “Now take this off, won’t you?”

Lynn smiles and slips off her pants, “Totally! You’re good to go again?”

“Huh, oh, no, I’m super tired!” Anne feigns exhaustion and begins to get out of bed.

“What? Wait! But, like, hold on! What!?” Lynn scrambles, trying to reach for her partner.

“But you’re going to keep those off and get comfortable with the fact that you’re no less of woman, regardless of what’s between your legs, okay?” Anne kisses her partner on the cheek and waits.

“I mean, yeah, totally, sure, but like, I can do that afterward, right? Baby?” (Lynn would not describe herself as pleading.)

Anne walks out the door, naked, a bounce in her step as she calls out, “I’m going to make some food! You stay put and cool down.”

Lynn is left alone, naked, vulnerable, and unmoving. She feels cold at losing her partner’s touch, and she definitely hasn’t started loving the bits between her legs. She looks to the bedside table for her phone, and sighs as she picks it up. She opens the camera app and begins scrutinizing herself. Lynn looks desperately for things to love; she looks desperately to see truth in all the arguments Anne has ever given her. Again, she fails to completely love herself. But this once, she notices something she hadn’t previously. This thing being that her desperate want to be a “pretty woman”, readily accepted by her peers, is a fear women always have, regardless of being cis or trans. She turns off the camera, lays back on the bed and looks up. She is neither comfortable, nor in love with herself, but she is beginning to understand that she does not have to be. Not immediately, at least.

 


VALERIE PLEASANT is an erotica writer, hoping to create erotica that anyone of any gender identity or sexuality can enjoy, without dysphoria or discomfort. Being a queer trans woman, she feels the need to reinforce that in everywhere. She tries her best, and has not yet been adequately rewarded with a Booker prize. This is tragic.

Copyright © 2018 by Valerie Pleasant. All rights reserved.

‘Femme Fatale’ by Leana Paparella

A 35mm film photography series exploring ideologies of femininity and beauty on a girl’s night in.

 


LEANA PAPARELLA  is a Communications student at Concordia University who specializes in photography and videography. She is particularly interested in analog media such as film photography because of its tangibility of a moment in time.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Leana Paparella. All rights reserved.

‘What Do I Tell My Sister’ by Katie Saulnier

What do I tell my sister?

Do I tell her to be loud when I know that sometimes silence can save you?

Do I tell her to pick her own direction and march, head held high? I know how easy it is to get lost, and to not realize until you’ve gone as far as you can go.

Do I tell her the things I wish I’d known, or will they be all wrong for her path? I grew by making my own discoveries, but I got hurt too.

What do I tell my mother?

No secrets between us.

Well, a few.

Okay, more than a few. Sorry Mom. But I tell her more than most, and she somehow knows the rest.

I would love to say I listen to her more than I talk, but anyone who knows me will spot that lie.

Who needs to keep a journal with a Mom like that? I’ve recited her a memoir by now. I hope that someday I learn to be quiet long enough to hear hers.

What do I tell my best friend?

The woman I’ve known for 26 years, now with her own little girl, a little girl I love so much it takes my breath away.

I don’t have children of my own. What can I tell her, now that she’s a mother?

The same things as always, thankfully.

That I heard a silly joke the other day. That I miss pretend-swordfighting with her in the park. That the new recipe I just tried is delightful. That sometimes the world makes me so angry and sometimes it makes me jump for joy. That I love her and will do everything I can to make the world safe for her daughter.

What do I tell my sister?

Half my age, but already twice as brave.

Do I tell her that her strength is an asset, when I know it can make her a target, too?

Do I tell her to keep fighting, always, because it reminds you that the world is worth saving, even if it will never be saved?

Do I tell her I don’t have the answers, and I never did?

What will I tell my sister?

Better yet, what will she tell me?

 


KATIE MICHELLE SAULNIER is a queer and neurodivergent lawyer, academic, and music-lover. She completed a B.A. in Philosophy and English Literature at Mount Allison in 2010, and a B.C.L./LL.B. at the McGill Faculty of Law in 2014. She is very enthusiastic about penguins.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Katie Michelle Saulnier. All rights reserved.