Chapter 3: Before the Bloom; or, the Meteorologist

Kindness of Strangers

By Sean Estelle

I don’t remember what his name was. The first man who kissed me. I remember vaguely what he looked like party beads, tall and thin, not much English. He and his crew up from Tijuana to celebrate their friend’s birthday at my new house off campus. Me adjusting to loose wrists and feeling comfortable with swinging my hips for the first time as the drinks flow through my veins. We stumbled down the steps into our garage and started breathing. I could see the steamy cloud of sweat from our bodies rising into the air, and the current of heat between us started crackling as we grew close together.

The things I wish I knew

By Lauren Brady

Steal my soft face. Steal my stature and my waist. Steal my presence. Steal my greetings and my categorization. They all were forced on me and sometimes I claw into reasoning and cast questions on the earth. Sometimes I want to feel the way I actually feel.

Silent Scream

By Thomas (Zeke) Zink

The light of the television illuminated the room in a soft blue hue, the sound muted as the body on the bed tossed and turned. He turned onto his side. Brown eyes looked over at the small black clock that lay on the nightstand, the numbers reading four o’clock AM.

He sniffed, curling into a tighter ball around the stuffed doll near his chest. The red-headed plush toy was soaked in tears. Reaching up with one hand, the boy wiped the tears away.

It was day three without proper sleep and by this point, he could not tell if the insomnia was causing his depression or if the depression was causing insomnia. He didn’t much care at this point. He just wanted it to end, for the sheets around him to suffocate him where he lay.

Rising up heavily, the boy laid his toy down carefully onto the pillow. The doll smiled back. He stared into the dark rimmed teal eyes for a moment before standing and walking quietly out of the room. The bathroom resided just outside the door and to the left. He opened the door and switched on the light, his fingers struggling to find the switch for but a moment before harsh yellow light filled the room.

He closed the door behind himself with a soft click. Flipping the switch to turn on the fan and he turned to face the mirror. The reflection blinked back at him and his throat caught again in emotion as he looked at the person standing there.

The person in the mirror, the female in the mirror looked back with his brown eyes. Her small, petite form seemed even smaller in the oversized shirt that fell to her knees. He touched his face. The girl in the mirror mimicked the movement, touching a hand to a soft cheek.

He clenched his jaw as bile rose in his throat. His hand travelled to his hair, the small digits curling into a fist around short purple locks as he felt his chest constrict. Even in the oversized shirt, the large lumps of tissue that hung on his chest were visible. A constant reminder of all the things he hated about himself.

The feeling wasn’t new. This skin-crawling feeling of wrongness and discomfort that made him want to tear at his skin, to shed it like an itchy wool sweater he’d been forced to wear. The urge to scream loose the tightness in his chest but the cry was lost in tears that trailed down flushed cheeks.

Panic set into his bones at the loss of control. He could feel the darkness closing in as he fought for his breath. He crumbled to the floor, tearing open the cabinet doors under the sink. He manically dug through the stacks of toilet paper and feminine hygiene products until he found his tool.

He felt for the small bump as his fingers met the cool metal of a razor blade. Taking it between his thumb and forefinger, he pulled up his sleeve. Old scars were white on his skin occasionally met with the pink tone of freshly healed ones. It had been so long since he’d felt such a severe loss of control.

He was quick to find a spot on his arm, in between two older scars and swiftly slide the sharp blade over the skin. Blood welled to the surface almost immediately in small tears of red. He repeated the process as tears dried and his eyes looked down half lidded in hard concentration, the pain barely registering in his mind.

By the time he laid the blade down in satisfaction, blood trickled down from five even and clean cuts on both arms. His breathing had slowed to normal. He felt his body buzz with adrenaline as oxygen cleared his mind. The quiet settled around him, only the soft circulation of the bathroom fan reaching his ears.

It felt like years before he raised his tired body to its feet, eyes refusing to meet those in the mirror as he cleaned away the blood and wrapped the wounds in soft white gauze and tan bandages to ward off infection. The stinging pangs had begun already, reminding him of what he’d done.

The cycle for control over his body had ended again as he left the bathroom. He entered his room once more and crawled into his bed, pulling the wide-eyed doll to his chest once more. He stared at the clock but not really seeing the time as his heavy-lidded eyes finally slid shut from exhaustion.

The Other Side of Security

by Mya Byrne and Neale Eckstein

Shadows of evening sun
This city is making me numb
Feels like I’m finally ready to go
Someplace where there’s no one I know

On the other side of security
On the last plane to anywhere
Wondering if I could have done better
Wondering if anyone cares

Got a bag holding all to my name
Put my shoes and my belt in the tray
Put myself back together to head to the gate
There’s nothing else left in my way

On the other side of security
on the last plane to anywhere
Wondering if I could have done better
wondering if anyone cares

It’s not that I am giving up
It’s just that I have had enough
of trying to live up
to somebody else’s dreams

On the runway, we’re picking up speed
There’s a kid in the seat next to me
He asks me, “Where are you going?”
I guess I’m going to find what I need

On the other side of security
on the last plane to anywhere
Wondering if I could have done better
Not caring if anyone cares

On the other side of security
on the last plane to anywhere
Wondering if I could have done better
Not caring if anyone cares
Not caring if anyone cares
Not caring if anyone cares

Macbeth’s Husband

By Alison Rumfitt

I hate my husband.

No, I don’t. I love him, with all my body
it’s just that I hate my body, see
so it gets things confused. I don’t
hate him, I love him, however much work that takes,
He fights a battle
swaggers home, drinks
has me for however long he thinks he wants
(I am only
a servant
a soldier
he is my master, my commander)
I am his wife, he loves me, I believe
you can taste it on his lips,
Yet he’s sick
with happiness, complacency
You see: he’s less a man than me.

They call me Lady.
They call me his name, Macbeth,
The Lady Macbeth
Macbeth’s Lady, possessive,
He’s my man, though
in reality,
If I could it would be me
with the knife
I would grow the mane,
Me, the Thane
of Cawdor, Glamis, the earth, the rain, the sun,
He’s tame, a dog for the King
I refuse to be a pet for him,

Come, come
out, out,
Spirits take my body, my thoughts
Unsex me here,
If men are cruel then I am cruel
If all men want is to earn sex and power
Than that is all for which I yearn,
Drink my milk dry
and cut my breasts from my chest
I can’t look at them without thinking
of womanhood, of motherhood, of my supposed sex,
I am no woman,
Call me Mr. Macbeth
hold the Lady on your tongue,
Mr. Macbeth, the husband
to Macbeth
the King

damned spot in my soul
the red spot in my underwear
crusted in my hair
the reminders of a girl
out, out I say
you mark me
as something I am not
and however much I wash these clothes
it’s you, looking back at me
just like you did when I was thirteen
and didn’t know that I would bleed
(Who would have thought that girl
to have so
much blood?)

I rise
on the throne, in a dream
my husband at my feet
a lover, a server
in life I am only King through his body
he is my connection to that crown
those commands
but he’s sick
he was always so weak
the damn cunt of a man can swing a sword
but lead? Breed? Feed on power?
That’s all me
look at him plead and cry
after my death, does he even mourn
like a husband should?
He just laments
about stage-plays and candles
what a mad-man, what a bad man
yet I see him, with a head cleaved from a body
by some usurper, the rightful King
I stand watching as a ghost
in the crowd of boys and friends he killed
they chant, laugh, hold his head up for all
and I see, I see
in his empty hungry eyes
a reflection:
he was no less a man
but a lesser man than me.

Chapter 4

Celebrating the beauty and expressive power of the human form