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Elie Wiesel writes, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Silence binds perpetrators and victims, creates a confederacy of secrets. Here, these women who were once silenced shatter the silence through with words, words that defy the past so they can move toward the future.
Antyesti (the Hindu burial)
by Roshani Chokshi
on the river banks,
clusters of mourners, zigzagged
jagged height, width — the asymmetry of grief.
Who they shield, glimpsed through the
lacunae of white dhotis, saris:
feet south, towards the afterworld
splayed hair, curled by funerary fumes
closed lids, netted hands
a mermaid in death.
along the banks, a girl apart
the woman in miniature.
wading in puddles of ash and bone,
picking up shells, bright bottle caps
some lost child straddling the fay world
the fire roars, ornamenting mourners
in robes of light, headbands of dust
scenting them with tulsi, sandalwood.
in the light, the faygirl
illumined by tiny meteors
reaches suddenly for the fire
— yanked — out of harm’s way
a single throw!
Seaglass, jasmine, bottlecaps
wreathes the dead woman’s feet,
deified by flame and fay and faygirl.
What You Talk About When You Talk About Rape
by Rasiqra Revulva
“Why are we still talking about this? It’s been like, five months.”
“So last night was pretty crazy, huh?”
“You need me.”
“How can you accuse me of something so vile?”
“I don’t regret it.”
“But why didn’t you stop me?”
“You have no other friends.”
“I think I have a drinking problem.”
“I never wanted to hurt you – I never could hurt you!”
“This isn’t making sense. Maybe you were just drunk and got confused or whatever.”
“You should have said no!”
“I wanted to change your mind.”
“Well, you should have said it louder!”
“I always knew you were a vindictive little cunt.”
“You’re my best friend.”
“No, weren’t you crying because of when your thigh got cut in the alley? ‘Cause I checked, and it’s not going to scar. It should be gone in a few days, really.”
“I was changing your mind.”
“So…where do we go from here?”
“I didn’t want to stop.”
“I love you.”
“Maybe this means we should start having sex?”
“I’m going to quit drinking. This must be a sign. I’m just like, so fucked up about everything.”
“You’re like, the most incredible person I’ve ever met.”
“Come to O’Grady’s (sorry I caved but come drink with me!!!!)”
“How dare you compare me to that bitch! She was talking shit about you for months, and all that happened with me was this one misunderstanding and ugh no why are you crying again?”
“I wanted you to belong to me.”
“You’ll have to get over it sooner or later.”
“Please forgive me.”
“You can’t just hide in your apartment with your boyfriend and your cat for the rest of your life.”
“I didn’t think you were serious!”
“If you don’t forgive me, I will die.”
you say “potato,”
i say “potato;”
you say “tomato,”
i say “tomato;”
“i fucked you,”
“ you raped me;”
let’s call the whole thing off!
We Become Real
by Maiga Milbourne
There are portraits of hollowed out
washed out worn out
whose eyes follow little girls
Their canvas edges fray
rips up towards
sticky fingers and then
fades against dusty
Lift them off the wall and
find a geometry of clean
against the dark of exposed
the space left to one day
My photo isn’t there.
Walls are filled with a
family’s story with
and a steady progression
Portrait on a wall of an
eight-year old girl in her
Easter Sunday dress,
hands folded, ankles
crossed and a knowing
smile knitting eyebrows
And then her picture isn’t there
Sledge-hammer the walls
in let plaster fill our
lungs break muscle on
sweat bust these
Here’s a match– light
the fire, use the rugs, use
the drapes. These pillows
will ignite! Down. Break
the Governor’s wife’s face
over your knee and feed her
canvas to the flames, whip
photos into hungry light,
Hungriest for a woman’s
lap. Remember the hours where
I jiggled the soft skin under your arm?
Remember when I crawled
deep and placed small, little
girl ear, a tiny shell
against the rhythm of your heart?
The others– the men who told
us to write it down, to record, to
make legacy– somehow, I can
It’s the women.
Their eyes on the wall.
Their eyes averted.
Now what can I offer you?
I won’t hang on your wall.
I’m missing from the
photos. I swear though.
I swear. I am opening
my arms, making space
for your ear to press against
the steadiness of my heart.
by Jessica Mason McFadden
My breasts went away
and with them your lips
unfortunate to lose all three, to dry up
clean and clear, and clear.
Those jettisons made
for marmalade, her early
evenings and late nights.
The strumpets below all left
for home and your lips locked
into the vault of a cemetery unknown.
Strump, Strump, what remains
are ruffles and stray whiskers.
My phantom breasts,
with your sliding eye mouth,
are ready to roam:
sheer on sheer on sheer.
TO MY ASSAILANT
by Rusha Saha
You shocked me into maturity,
You betrayed my childish trust,
Did you think that I’d wallow in self pity?
I’ve left you in the dust.
I’ve grown older, wiser and confident,
No more the frightened, cowering child
And yes, some tears I may have spent,
But it adds beauty to my smile.
I remember my confusion, I remember my fright,
I remember the hot, boiling shame,
I scrubbed my skin so much that night,
I thought I had myself to blame.
I knew if I had been clever and more aware
I would have been able to avoid you,
It wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair,
I hated you and the world too.
You were supposed to be my teacher, a guide,
Don’t you think I was too young to be messed around?
I was twelve then and I know I cried,
But now I’ve left you lying face down.
I fought with you as you groped my chest,
I pale now to think if you had gone on,
Did you think I’d never tell anyone of your perverseness?
I didn’t break down, you know, I moved on.
True, I hated your subject for a while,
I had loved it before, you ruined it for me,
But look now, who’s the one with a smile,
I’m going to get my Medical Degree.
I loathed you, I hated you with all certainty,
Until one day I realized you’re deplorable, an epic fail,
I stopped hating you, now I only have pity,
You’re a sad sexually frustrated pathetic excuse of a male.
I guess you made me stronger in a way,
I can now handle pain and strife,
I love myself more and I love each day,
I really hope you lead a better life.
Because I choose to be happy, not because I have no pain,
I choose to be happy in spite of the Fates’ ire
The sobbing, little girl has been scalded by flames,
And I have emerged a phoenix, honed stronger by the fire.
Renisha McBride’s Silencing
by Tomeka D. Hayes
A car accident in the early morning
You were dazed no doubt
I can’t help but wonder if you knew
About Brother Ferrell
Early morning accident
Left with no choice but to hope
Knocking on a door
Hoping for a different outcome
Face twisted in pain
Why must our faces always be twisted in pain
I cannot get a voice I’ve never heard
Out of my mind
One could wish you would’ve picked
But who’s to say it would have been
A white man with a shotgun
What did that look like to you
Early morning accident with blood in your eyes
He had blood in his eyes
Did you see it
I’m sure it stalled your heart
A white man with a shotgun
Might as well have been Brother Ferrell’s executioner
A cop with a handgun
A white man with a shotgun
Then a blast that silenced your plea
A shotgun blast twisted your face in pain
It brought stall to your heart
It silenced a voice
I cannot stop hearing
Oh my Black Sister
How my heart aches
At the thought of your voice
Flattened in an instant
White man with a shotgun
The same as cop with a handgun
Standing in front of a Black body
They dumped your body
If not at the corner of
Warren and Outer
Then at the intersection of
Racism and sexism
You must have felt a moment of relief
Replaced with the horror of knowing
As you saw the shotgun
Before all feeling was removed
I cannot get your voice
Out of my mind
A voice that was flattened and silenced
By a white man with a shotgun
The same as a cop with a handgun
When will all this silencing cease?
Roshani Chokshi’s poem “Dialect” was formerly published in the online literary magazine In The Fray and was subsequently nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2008. Her writing has appeared in Rivaaj, Loosechange and Neem magazine and she is a 2010 recipient of the Academy of American Poets Prize from Emory University.
Rasiqra Revulva is a Toronto-based writer, mixed-media artist, editor, musician, and performer. She is a founding member of the synth-punk/electro/glitch/industrial music and visual art duo The Databats. In 2010, her poem “The Lot” was awarded an Honourable Mention for the Judith Eve Gewurtz Memorial Poetry Prize. Her writing has been published by The Incongruous Quarterly, Cordite Poetry Review, and ditch,.
Passionate about healthy bodies and communities, Maiga Milbourne is a yoga instructor, writer, retreat developer, activist, and suburban farmer. Look for her upcoming inclusion in the Chrysallis Journal (http://chrysalisjournal.org/) or regular contributions to Project Inkblot (www.projectinkblot.com). Join her for a yoga and creative writing retreat this August with Caits Meissner (www.mythicbeingsretreat.com). Learn more at www.maigamilbourne.com.
Jessica Mason McFadden is working toward an M.A., as a graduate student, teaching assistant, and Writing Center consultant in the Department of English and Journalism at Western Illinois University. Her research centers on queer pedagogy, queering theatrical performances, and challenging and reinterpreting clinical diagnosis by using Disability Theory to read the works of Virginia Woolf. When she can, she writes reviews and articles for Lambda Literary and Gender Focus. Her poems have appeared in Women’s Voices Journal, Read These Lips, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Breadcrumb Scabs, Spinozablue Electronic Journal of the Arts, Sinister Wisdom, The Countess of Flatbroke’s Treasury of Poems (Basic Me), Adanna, Saltwater Quarterly, Lavender Review, Skin to Skin, and Queer Owl (A Jar of Queer Feeling). More are forthcoming in Wilde Magazine. Her first chapbook of poetry, Woman in Disguise, was published in 2012 by Kathleen Bryce Niles and her Saltfire Press. Jess co-founded Headmistress Press with Mary Meriam and spent seven months as resident Schoolmistress, in an interning co-operating position, of the press. She was a recipient of the Gloria Anzaldúa Rhetorician Award at the Conference on College Composition and Communication in March 2014.
Rusha is currently an undergraduate Medical student in Leeds who is especially interested in the improving the experiences of women in healthcare. She grew up in Calcutta, India where she often wrote to express her feelings. She hopes to become a surgeon and travel the world, that is of course, if she can get off facebook.
Tomeka D. Hayes is a Radical Femi-Womanist GenderQueer Dyke from North Carolina. She is a scholar-activist who has led a workshop at the Youth Organizing Institute of Wake County, worked as an Intern at the Pauli Murray Project, and served on the planning committee for Still Walking For Justice. She is a first year graduate student in the Feminist Studies Ph.D. program at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and is interested in studying Black Queer Studies broadly, and Black Queer female-bodied masculinity specifically. Her chosen art is writing in all its various forms of expression.