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  • Robert L. Giron

Issue 132

In this issue, work by


Norma Alonzo


Copyright © 2020 by Norma Alonzo.

About the Artist

Norma Alonzo has always taken her painting life seriously, albeit privately. An extraordinarily accomplished artist, she has been painting for over 25 years. Beginning as a landscape painter, she quickly transitioned to an immersion in all genres to experiment and learn. Visit:

R. T. Castleberry

Playing the Border Bet

As I walk out

beneath chalk blue skies,

I feel stripped as a stolen car.

Two twenties in my wallet,

cell phone and Chesterfields

filling my pockets,

I see smoke spirals hanging

from the Northern burn.

My wife serves a Texas Jesus,

drafted the kids and a cousin

to a common liar’s cause.

If there’s a fixation beyond

rolled steel fences and firearms

I haven’t heard it.

Before the CD kicks in,

radio news declares

fighting at MacDougal and Third,

fighting at Messina on the river.

I know a 4-wheel driving path,

a friend bored, barely hanging on.

I’ve heard his beer bar draft

for a border run, a nurtured need

to ascend in the world.

I know a wife between weddings

who’ll take my call, who’ll take us in.

She marries into secrets.

One of them is me.

Copyright © 2020 by R. T. Castleberry.

In Silence, In Sound

There is this simplicity that permeates,

pretends all emotion is distilled

from timber nailed to stone, to steel,

shiver of altar cloth, beast blood.

With this suspicion—

that is not rancor,

not the hum of wire and chain,

not the flick of a hand

holding a stone, a diamond,

we are wearing down.

Confusing confession with need,

relief with retreat,

we are sleeping together.

In limitations of memory

we are as asset and liability,

half-measures of the distance

between your voice and my eyes.

As flesh, as killers intertwined,

there is no simple space

between deed, dream and death.

In rituals of Tarot turn, I Ching throw,

we repeat ourselves.

We are painters in primary colors.

We have gathered dark stone,

mistrust, mourning cloth

and placed them, primitive

as the origami of children,

upon a lacquered table.

As lovers, as misguided correspondents,

we are disguising speech,

blurring consequence and concern,

turning blank as fog spotlights.

We are miming the mock of age—

blasting all, blaming all.

We are spinning,

not in silence, not in sound,

steel and song and sorrow.

Copyright © 2020 by R.T. Castelberry.

About the Author

R. T. Castleberry’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Pedestal Magazine, Comstock Review, Green Mountains Review, Silk Road and Argestes. Internationally, it has been published in Canada, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand and Antarctica. His poetry is in the anthologies: Travois-An Anthology of Texas Poetry, TimeSlice, The Weight of Addition, Anthem: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, Kind Of A Hurricane: Without Words and Blue Milk’s anthology, Dawn. His chapbook Arriving At The Riverside was published by Finishing Line Press in January, 2010. An e-book, Dialogue and Appetite was published by Right Hand.

Zyanya Ávila Louis

Parallel Lines

The night we left our home, Mamá couldn‘t stop pacing back and forth in her bedroom, going from one side to the other as if she could not remember what she meant to do. She paused at each piece of furniture in the room before moving onto the next. First the bed on its wooden frame, the indentations in the mattress left by my parents‘ bodies covered by their clothes, some of which she had pulled out of the closet and stuffed into my school backpack. She plunged back into the closet, pulled out a pair of shoes for my father and stuffed those in as well. Finally, she stopped cold in the middle, took a deep breath, and focused herself. On her way out of the room, she lingered on the simple wooden vanity her brother, my Tío Ernesto, who my mother loved so much she named me after him, even though I am a girl, had made for her when she married my father. She pushed past me without taking anything from the modest collection of bottles and tubes that held the sweet-smelling powders, liquids, and colors that were her make up.

“Mamá?” I questioned. I tried to catch her eye, to get her attention, but I was too short.

I followed her into my room and started to cry, thinking I had misbehaved. Just as she took me in her arms, almost stifling me in her apprehension, my father appeared, saying, “Come on, you have to go. There won‘t be another chance.”

The man my father had paid to take us across the border from our home to El Paso said it was a good night to leave because the moon would not give us away as we made our escape from the people who had killed Ernesto two nights before. My friend from next door said that her cousin had also been sent away. When her cousin‘s family had finally settled down in El Paso, staying with another family member of theirs, they called to let their family know they‘d made it. My friend described their journey in such a frightening way, I had nightmares for weeks, of the howling of a wolf in the night, shadows flying across a full moon, chupacabras that my Tío Ernesto had told me about before himself disappearing. Mamá had mourned his death and raged over his murder, but to me it had seemed like he had been devoured by the monsters he‘d enjoyed scaring me with, somehow more tangible than war. When it was our turn to disappear into the night, the evening was quiet, crisp like only night in the desert can be once the sun has been absorbed into dust. There were no shadows or howls, only crickets setting a soft chorus as we drove beyond the houses I had known since birth. I could only marvel at how normal it seemed: the man my father had hired smelled of cologne, like my father always did, and was clean shaven too.

“Mamá?” I said again, just to break the spell.

“Mijita,” she whispered back, squeezing my hand in such a way that I knew what I had to do.


As soon as the obnoxious but welcome bell rings to end another day of my junior year at Socorro High School, I tug on my Bulldogs hoodie, gather my books, and walk down the hall to the art room, where I know Alma will be. I like my English teacher because she is patient with me, but I have been itching to get out of her classroom and smell the more comforting scents of the paints and other art things Alma works with, get my mind off the story we are supposed to write about a moment that changed our lives, or whatever the storm was supposed to mean. Either way, I know Alma will be a breath of fresh air after the stifling English room, full of all its puzzling metaphors.

I step in and spot Alma at the far end of the long room, talking with the art teacher. Ms. Wicks is wiping up the fine layer of dust that often settles onto the sparse free space on her cluttered countertops because she always insists on leaving the windows open to let in the fresh air, no matter the weather. Alma sees me and returns my smile with her lovely one, further brightening my mood. Ms. Wicks gives me a wave too, the sleeve of tattoos on her arm peeking out from her smock. I admire this artwork of permanence on her skin, but I am not sure I‘d get any myself. I turn my attention instead to the easels in haphazard pairs scattered around the room. Ms. Wicks‘ students‘ works in progress are still shiny with the wet paint on the canvases. Some are okay, clearly belonging to students who couldn‘t get the elective they really wanted; some are good, belonging to students who enjoyed the class but simply didn‘t quite have the hang of things.

And then there is Alma‘s. She‘s painted the spot on Scenic Drive we like to go on Friday evenings, overlooking our cities, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, and it stands before me as if I were there myself. The wet paint makes the yellow, gold, and reds of the city lights look like they twinkle. It is a moment before I realize my heart has started beating a little faster, as if I have jogged along the steep winding road lined with a rock wall that separates the road from the cliff face below, maybe because I am looking from one favorite view to another: my cities and my soul. Alma comes up and hugs me.

“Hi, babe! You found my project. I just finished it today. What do you think?” She beams at me from underneath her new bangs, eyes seeming to reflect the lights that I had to remind myself were paint on canvas.

“It‘s your best work yet!” I reply. “I love how you made it look so . . . real. It mesmerized me.”

I give extra emphasis to “mesmerized,” being careful not to mispronounce it and gesturing at her work.

“It really is lovely, Alma. You‘ve outdone yourself,” I add, kissing her forehead.

“Thanks, Tina,” she says, excited by my enthusiasm, but clearly bursting to say something else.

“You okay, there?” I say.

“Okay, I was going to wait until it was done, and it‘s not until next week, I know, but since you‘ve already seen it . . . this is for you!” she gushes. “It‘s your gift, for our anniversary. One year! I know it‘s cheesy, but, I don‘t know, I just wanted to celebrate it. With something for you. You know—”

“Hey,” I interrupt, seeing that a blush is blooming behind the freckles on her cheeks. “It‘s not cheesy. I love it! It was beautiful before, but now that I know it‘s mine? I wouldn‘t sell it for all the money in the world, even though I bet it‘s already worth a fortune.”

Settled in my bedroom for the night, with the actual stars twinkling outside my window as well as on my painting from Alma, I think once more of how she created it just for me. I wonder where she gets her inspiration from, or if that‘s even the right question to ask an artist in order to see inside their heart. It seems vague yet too specific, a question as possible as counting the stars above my head, or the bolls of cotton in the fields one block over: maybe I could do it with the right equipment, but not just by gazing up or out at them. How can one pinpoint just one moment, or just one piece of inspiration, when every day must come together to where we are now? In any case, I know her work needs to flourish, be enjoyed.

The next morning, I yawn as I walk the last few blocks to school. I know no mail could possibly have come in the night, but I looked in the mail box on my way out anyway, just in case I missed an envelope from Immigration Services. Whether I submit any applications to schools like many of my classmates, including Alma, depends on getting the DACA status. I am afraid I hadn‘t had enough documentation, and if this application is denied, I do not have any money to reapply. As it was, saving up took my entire high school time, doing odd things around the neighborhood for cash. When we first started dating, Alma had been taking a cosmetology elective and now uses the skills to help keep the callouses on my hands at bay; we gave up on nail polish long ago, but at least my hands don‘t feel like leather from all the cleaning and yardwork.

Mamá had supplied me with a thermos of black Café Bustelo before I left, but it is long gone when I arrive at the main entrance and head once more through the halls to wait for Alma, if she hasn‘t already arrived, outside the art room. From the opposite end of the hall, I see Ms. Wicks approaching, keys in hand to unlock the door.

“Good morning, Ernestina,” she says, nodding at me. I remember Alma saying Ms. Wicks is not a morning person, especially before her coffee. “You can wait for Alma inside if you like.”

“Sure. Thank you, Ms. Wicks,” I say. I don‘t remind her that everyone calls me Tina, even Mamá.

Not quite knowing what else to do, and only having spoken to Ms. Wicks with Alma as our buffer, I make my way to Alma‘s workstation and take out the book we‘re reading in English, figuring I might as well get a head start, but after the first paragraph, Ms. Wicks interrupts me.

“I heard what you said yesterday.”

“Pardon,” I respond, confused.

“Alma is very talented, you‘re right about that. You said her painting is probably already worth a fortune. She has the potential to be that successful, I‘d say.”

There doesn‘t seem to be any particular intonation in her voice, so I just answer, “Oh yes, ma‘am. I‘m really proud of her. I bet she‘s going to be really successful, for sure.”

“If she makes the right decisions, yes.”

This time, there‘s a sure change in her voice, and I am curious and a little nervous. “Ma‘am?”

“I would encourage her to apply to San Francisco, or New York, even Boston, if I were you. She seems to have her heart set on UTEP, but she can go so much further than that. Perhaps she‘ll listen to you.”

I blink in silence for a second or two, then nod, still not knowing what to make of the conversation. “I‘ll be sure to bring it up.”

“Bring what up?” Alma strides into the room, smiling at Ms. Wicks and me.

“What we were talking about the other day, Alma,” Ms. Wicks replies.

“Oh.” Alma‘s smile turns more polite than sincere. “I know it‘s not conventional, and that Mr. Rodriguez agrees with you, but I don‘t know if I could move away.” She glances at me, I almost think involuntarily, as if in her mind there is no question, then adds, “The people I love are here. It‘d be too hard to leave them.”

At lunch, Alma shows me the set of really top of the line sketching pencils she won for mastering Ms. Wicks‘ exercise in parallel lines along with the sketches that earned the prize. Some are basic studies, simple lines fading in and out of the distance; other sketches have more elaborate designs and patterns, creating depth, futures.

Alma has fallen silent, and she‘s staring at me.

“Tina, you aren‘t listening.”

“I‘m sorry. I spaced out for a second. But I really am proud of you—these sketches are amazing, mi Alma. Maybe we can take the pencils for a test drive this weekend or something.”

“Thanks, babe. But I actually asked you how your essay is going. Didn‘t you say you were dreading writing it?”

I flush, even more embarrassed that she‘d been asking about me and I hadn‘t even been listening. “Oh, right. Yeah, I finished it, actually. I wrote about my mom and Dad meeting.”

“That would definitely change your life,” Alma says. “Want me to look over it? I‘d love to read it.”

“Sure,“ I say. Then, “Alma . . . I don‘t want to be a jerk, but how come you didn‘t tell me what Ms. Wicks said? Or your guidance counselor. You should totally be applying to those schools. They‘d have you in a heartbeat.”

“Ernestina,” she says, using my full name, which she rarely does “I don‘t want to go. I know you can‘t come with me, so I want to stay here. It is my decision.”

“It is definitely your decision. But I don‘t want you to regret not going. Especially if it‘s because of me. Who knows if UTEP will even accept me either—you should shoot higher because you actually can.”

“I‘d never regret it. I can make art anywhere. El Paso is untapped art waiting to be shown! You know that.”

“I know, and that was cheesy,” I say, trying to lighten the conversation. “But Alma, please just . . . rethink it. If you decide to go, we can work something out.”

“I really just wish people would stop telling me what I should do with my art. Doesn‘t everyone always admire how ‘rooted in the desert it is‘ or how much it ‘highlights the Suncity‘? How am I supposed to be part of the art scene here if I‘m not working here.”

She has a point. Last year she‘d had a small section in an exhibition for young up-and-coming artists and her work was not only the talk of the whole show, but everyone had admired the way she portrayed the city. The whole reason I enjoy some of the city‘s sites, like our spot at Scenic Drive, is because I see them anew through her eyes; the city that had often felt like a wall between me and my first home had become just as much a part of me because of the beauty she made me see. No one‘s work compares to Alma‘s because she is truly talented, but there is also no one who loves El Paso like she does. How many times have I myself seen her cajole someone into admitting that the city was pretty cool when they complained about something or other?

The bell rings and before I can make her promise to think about it, she pats my cheek saying she‘ll see me after school, and is gone into the crowd of other students.

The light, fluttery scarf around Alma‘s neck stirs in the wind. I notice how the green hues of the scarf brings out the green in her hazel eyes and the sun, getting ready to set, makes her brown hair look red. She‘s so vibrant.

“Alma—” I begin.

“Do you think your mom will let me sketch her?” she asks. In the three days since she‘d won them, she‘s already made excellent use of the sketch pencils from Ms. Wicks and can‘t get enough of them.

“Maybe,” I say. “She likes you, so she might be convinced to say yes, with some buttering up.“

“Challenge accepted,” she replies in such a way that I know it will not be a challenge at all.

As soon as we walk in, Mamá, expecting us to arrive like we do every Friday after school, calls for us to come into the kitchen. Something smells amazing, and Alma and I inhale as we make a beeline through the tiny living room into the source of the aroma. She‘s made albondiga soup, which I know is Alma‘s favorite. I feel a twinge of annoyance at my mother for making such a delicious meal, even though she really has no idea of what I am trying to convince Alma to do, and then I immediately feel guilty for the unwarranted irritation.

“Mmm, Señora Sánchez. You know that‘s my all-time favorite dish you make. Not that pretty much every dish you make isn‘t also my favorite,” Alma says.

My mother smiles at Alma‘s compliment, “Thank you, mija. Muy amable, eh? Come back for seconds. ¿Quieres un tazón para llevar a su papi?”

“Pos, si!” Alma replies. “My dad always loves when I bring him a little something back from you.” Alma‘s mother traveled a lot for work, leaving her and her father to themselves.

Bueno. When you‘re done, I‘ll put some away for you to take. How are your studies going? ¿Trabajando mucho?”

“Very well. If I stay in the top ten in our graduating class, UTEP will automatically accept me and then I can apply for scholarships galore. If I can keep getting into shows like I did last year, I can even start selling my work and be able to pay for books, or at least more supplies. That‘s the main goal.”

“Ah, si se puede. Sigue adelante, mija. I think you‘re going to be just fine.”

My mother nods in approval and shuffles out of the kitchen to leave Alma and me to our devices, as she usually does, but Alma stops her.

“Wait a minute,” she says. A pause, then diving in, “Can I ask you something, Señora Sánchez?“

Si, of course.” My mother looks intrigued.

Alma makes her request for a sketch session, and not surprisingly Mamá agrees to sit for Alma, who will come back tomorrow morning when the light is better.

Mamá is pacing back and forth in her room again and I am reminded of that night when we left Juárez, the night that is always on my mind because it follows me everywhere and lingers in everything I do. This is nowhere near as urgent, but my mother seems a little nervous to sit for Alma and is wondering what to wear. She doesn‘t pull out as many clothes from the closet as she did when she was trying to decide what to leave behind and what to take with her to the United States, but there are a couple of outfits strewn on the bed, two tubes of lipstick that look almost identical in her hands. I tell her that Alma is only sketching her, that it will be in blacks and grays with no color and that she looks beautiful. She still makes me apply the lipstick using the same kind of tiny brush Alma used on me when her cosmetology class was experimenting with makeup. The day she finally got her hands on me to act as her guinea pig was also our first kiss, and now the subtle scent of the lipstick reminds me of her. I finish retouching Mamá‘s makeup, and her reflection in the mirror seems to calm her. She takes my face in her hands, before going off to tend to the soup she‘s reheating on the stove.

Once my mother and Alma are positioned near the window, my mother on the loveseat and Alma on one of our kitchen table chairs, Alma begins to sketch. At first, she is quiet, then seeing that my mother is a little tense with nerves, she starts a conversation.

“Now that I get to admire you both more closely, I can see where Tina gets her good looks, Señora Sánchez. But she must have her father‘s eyes.”

“Oh, can I talk while you sketch me?” my mother responds, then giggles as she realizes that yes, she can. “Yes, mijita has her father‘s beautiful eyes. They remind me of him every day.”

“Tell me how you two met, if you don‘t mind.”

Mamá looks surprised at the question, but not offended. She went very quiet, so much so that Alma added softly, “It‘s okay if you prefer not to.”

“Oh, no, it‘s okay,” Mamá says. “Fíjate que conocímos por el crueldad. My grandmother kicked me out of her house when I was sixteen. My sister Berta and I were doing laundry. It was in the summer time, so this was our favorite chore because the breeze felt good. When we finished, we took a bath in the water from the well that we had left out that morning to heat up in the sun. After that, it was time to start dinner. Berta prepared the meat while I made tortillas. Our mother walked in, saw my still wet hair and went into a fit, asking why I had not washed my hair first thing in the morning, so it could dry— going to bed with wet hair would make you catch cold, she said, and there was no time for a sick child in the house. How could I be so selfish and stupid? She slapped me, grabbed me by the arm and shoved me out the door, onto the front step, telling me that I couldn‘t come back in.”

I had vaguely heard about my grandmother‘s cruel, vicious temper, but never quite this story. I had no idea, and like Alma, I was listening intently to the story, which was punctuated only by the pencil strokes on Alma‘s sketchpad.

“Eventually, my other sister Refugio‘s husband found me a job in a restaurant, and I worked hard there. I learned the regular patrons, especially the baseball players from the town‘s team, who came by after every game. Y eso fue como lo conocí a mi esposo. He was very handsome, with his green eyes, and dark skin. He was tall, and when he pulled me into his lap when they were all laughing and having fun, he was strong but gentle, and it actually made me feel special, not like when other men had tried to do the same. We would go dancing every weekend, after his games, and soon he asked me to marry him.”

Her voice has trailed suddenly off, and there are tears in her eyes. Alma‘s sketch of her is long complete, perched on Alma‘s lap, and I have to look away because the look on my mother‘s face, both the real and the rendered, are more than I can bear, they‘re so familiar. I tell Alma that maybe it‘s better if I stop by her place later and she agrees. Mamá kisses Alma on the forehead but otherwise is silent as she heads to her bedroom.

I could not have been more than five that night we left my father behind, but tonight, that scene is still fresh in my mind. Unlike that evening, where the darkness seemed to envelope us, hiding us, yet pulling us back into the folds of danger, tonight the shadows are softened by the stars and moon overhead; it is another crisp evening, though there is no immediate need to escape from murderers or even immigration. In fact, the breeze, though chilly, on my face comforts me as I make my way to Alma‘s house, a few streets away from my own. Folded in the pockets of my father‘s jacket, which dwarfs me in its seemingly endless vastness, is an application packet I managed to print out on our huffy old computer and the envelope I had been watching out for in the other. I squeeze my hands around these like Mamá did to shush me that night when I was only a baby; like then, I know what I have to do, the line of action as clear as the exercises in parallels that Alma won.

She answers the door when I ring the doorbell and I almost forget the whole thing. Instead I hand her the packet and the envelop with my name on it as proof, “You have to go. There won‘t be another chance, Alma.”

Copyright © 2020 by Zyanya Ávila Louis.

About the Author

Born and raised in El Paso, Zyanya Ávila Louis holds a BA in Creative Writing from UTEP and received her MFA in Fiction from Emerson College. During her time as a teacher and mentor at Emerson and other institutions, she developed a passion for working with international students, multilingual students, and other diverse student populations. Bilingual herself, she loves writing and reading fiction and non-fiction, and occasionally enjoys poetry. Zyanya now lives in Quincy, MA with her husband, their demon cat, and her growing library of books.

Simon Perchik

[It has nothing to do with the banjo—this chair]


It has nothing to do with the banjo—this chair

aches for wheels that will rust, wobble

the way riverbeds grow into something else

—where there was a mouth, there’s now wet dirt

and with a single gulp the Earth is drained

by a compass that points to where it’s from

and you are eased room to room

as an endless sob drying in your throat

—you sing along till side by side

each wheel becomes that afternoon

that folded one hand over the other

as if for the last time.

Copyright © 2020 by Simon Perchik.

[As if these gravestones were once a forest]


As if these gravestones were once a forest

between each there’s still the breeze

from wood and leaves and winter

though under your fingertips the initials

warm, are already stretching out

the way a beginner tree wants to be lit

then at its highest even in the cold

grows a small stone that will ripen

and stay red for the arrow

carved around two rivers and the heart

brought closer, smelling from the caress

that is not a blouse or its ashes.

Copyright © 2020 by Simon Perchik.

[Though the bed died during the night]

Though the bed died during the night

this sheet is reaching for flowers

still warm from the last time they saw daylight

as one more hole in the Earth

—it’s for them you heat the room

with wood each morning heavier

breathing in the way you fill your arms

with sores no longer holding on

—this bed was left to die in the open

as the space between two pillows

that grieves with the ancient scent

cooling your lips among the ashes.

Copyright © 2020 by Simon Perchik.

[A spotless avalanche, minutes old]

A spotless avalanche, minutes old

already bathed the way this rope

begins as rain then ponds

then oceans slowly covered with masts

from hard tall ships—you dead

still cling to the rocks and what’s left

when mourners leave too close to each other

—you stretch out though your arms

are now the endless undergrowth

half tied to shadows, half your slow descent

as if the sky was never enough, comes by

weaker and weaker till your breath

becomes weightless—say it! what you hear

is one stone telling the others who it loves

what it began so late in the afternoon.

Copyright © 2020 by Simon Perchik.

[What was siphoned off the sun]

What was siphoned off the sun

could just as easily be this tree

and each branch carried out

struggling with moss and faraway

—who can tell it’s not this tree’s

last chance to sort the light

as if going somewhere was still possible

that love too is possible—all this wood

even in winter arriving to gather you up

as leaves, shining, smelling from dew

already beginning to blossom, impatient

for arms and shoulders and the fire.

Copyright © 2020 by Simon Perchik.

About the Author

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Gibson Poems (Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2019). For more information including free e-books and his essay Magic, Illusion and Other Realities please visit his website at or view a video of him beow.

T. M. Thomson

And Comets

I want to wrap the sun for you—

its churning miasma of myrtle

and chartreuse and ruby

and lemon and maroon

and magenta

top it off with a ribbon

made of finest space storm


But all is boxes

and carnival rides

and begging animals.

The rollercoaster is high

but predictable

and the old man swats

his own forehead

in aiming

at flies.

Night is just moon-

ridden bards

whose psalms die

at daybreak.

So I reach for sun

parsing your size

trying to figure out which color

suits you best

deciding you are all of them

and topping you off

with an ascot

of perpetuity

and comets.

Copyright © 2020 by T. M. Thomson.


In a pasture rain falls


on heads of daffodil


Morning glories—

mere crescents—

wait at the edges.

Later in an orchard

primrose opens

under the shade

of oranges.

At apex of summer

flowers bustle

swarm soil

in cream and crimson.

Lichen climbs trees


At the cusp

women appear

and disappear

speaking of a psalm

of tears

to be sung

at an altar

of pines.

Sage and violet

drape the women

as the tender tentacles

of age

wrap about them

above a new



Copyright © 2020 by T. M. Thomson.

About the Author

T. M. Thomson’s work has most recently appeared in Voice of Eve and Gemini and will be featured in The Phoenix, Random Poetry, and Aji. Three of her poems have been nominated for Pushcart Awards: Seahorse and Moon in 2005, I Walked Out in January in 2016, and Strum and Lull in 2018. She has co-authored Frame and Mount the Sky, a chapbook of ekphrastic poetry (2017) and is author of Strum and Lull (2019) and The Profusion (2019). Visit her on Facebook.

Jennifer Urbanek


I tried to dissect love, but it wouldn’t crack.

Until it did.

Swimmy like egg whites dashed on the floor,

your penis awes even limp,

but you have no desires,

No desires for me.

No desires for others.

No desire for masturbation.

You just want your mind to shut off.

You just want to forget where you are for a moment.

Your skin itches and you raise red welts,

but I cannot touch you.

Except firmly without stroking

And I have to let you know my touch is coming.

I may not put my tongue in your mouth.

You say I feel like an octopus grabbing at you

when we kiss I have to be a receptacle.

Your kisses are perfunctory yet rough.

I may not touch your feet, face, hair, bottom, or scrotum.

It would, “send you through the roof.”

You won’t take your Cialis or Viagra that I bought for you

Without insurance.

You demand that I stay around.

You demand I take care of you.

You demand that I sleep next to you.

Even thought the bed springs in that divot between

our thighs causes my hips agony.

I miss how you were, before the ankle bracelet.

I miss how you were, before the halfway house.

I miss how you were before I took out what the world did to you and me

before, well ... before I took that out on you.

Back when you thought I was perfect.

Back when I was just your little brat.

Back when you didn’t know who I was and you could pretend I was her.

The question is,

Can you recharge love, or does it just bleed down

your nightstand like a used up old battery?

Copyright © 2020 by Jennifer Urbanek.


Always moving

You always have to move.

So, I need a new card — a new photo,

but I am not beautiful anymore.

Cosmetic tricks; painted on thick and creamy.

I heard you can’t smile anymore for these.

They need to measure your biometrics,

It is not a laughing matter.

Just a matter of time before this involves a cheek

swab, eye scan, and pap smear.

Look blankly at the camera and the joyless worker.

“Here you go.”

In the picture there is a white orb floating on my chin

a ghost of my youth dribbling down my face.

Scuttling away from me and my souring.

Can I peel back the laminate? Scrape off the hologram?

Is there bromine left to lick off the photograph?

Oh, they don’t use that anymore?

Copyright © 2020 by Jennifer Urbanek.

About the Author

Jennifer Urbanik has been published in Coastlines, Helix, Entartete Kunst, The Bennington Review, and in several small zines. Jennifer has been part of panels and given lectures at conferences on subjects such as the poetry of Salvador Dali and Disability Studies in Literature. They are out about having autism, TBI, as well as other mental and physical differences. Being autistic does change the way that they write. It is more detailed, hyperlexical, and has layered associations. They think that it positively colors their writing. Jennifer’s most current conference titles are Heterotopias Serve as the Locus for Enfreakment, Counterculture, and Freedom in Southern Literature, and The Depiction of Disability and the Illness Narrative in the Graphic Novel. Jenniefer intends to spend the next two years intensely promoting their work in poetry and in the field of Disability Studies in Literature.

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