Carrie Seitzinger – Nailed Magazine https://nailedmagazine.com Wed, 15 Aug 2018 03:26:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Soil by Karleigh Frisbie https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/soil-by-karleigh-frisbie/ Tue, 03 Apr 2018 09:00:57 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=16906 A personal essay by Karleigh Frisbie. + + + Star is her middle name. Her first name after the candlelight, the only light you can see through the trees, so small and flickering—and when you find it you know how to get home. Her first name is also after the wasp pendant, or maybe it was […]

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A personal essay by Karleigh Frisbie.

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Star is her middle name. Her first name after the candlelight, the only light you can see through the trees, so small and flickering—and when you find it you know how to get home. Her first name is also after the wasp pendant, or maybe it was a scorpion, that sits in a dish on her mother’s vanity. Her name could also mean “proceed with caution.”

The forest is dense and steep over some ravine, way down, where a doe and her babies might be on stilty legs. This is where we play war, Amber Star and I. It might be the way girls play war, with mysteries and clues and some magic. We are a troop of two that sometimes divides. Our enemy we cannot see, might be hiding and watching in trees and water. Codes are sent out through the stream talking over rocks. We decipher. Shhhh, we say.  I hear them, we say. We find patterns. We look for signs: A tee shirt, ripped and moldy and bunched and orange, is a sign. So is a tin that says Copenhagen. The signs make us say This way.

A road interrupts us. I am surprised by its suddenness. The forest does not prepare me for its end. We follow the road of dark soil and soggy bark and old rain. We pass a neighbor’s house and Amber Star tells me not to look at their horse. That the people are mean, possibly kidnappers. She tells me to keep walking when the dog is barking or the eyes are looking from the kitchen window. I look at my dirty shoes, a flap of rubber siding flapping. They are the generic ones from Ross where Dad said he was a manager but wasn’t and got fired. I make a blue rectangle with a marker on the back of the heel and hope that people think they are real. Amber Star has majorette boots with fringe that used to belong to some cool cousin that lives maybe in Tahoe.

The sky above us is getting ready to return. Ocean river lake stream birdbath kiddie pool ready to return, to come home. Like when grown-up women go back to golf-course neighborhoods and remodeled bathrooms and the same Costco Chinese chicken salad kit since age thirteen and you look different, the mom says. But they are made out of the same exact stuff, just waiting to return like bad weather every Christmas or funeral.

We run now and the rain is getting our hair all drippy. Pass the water tower, the tire. Cut into the trees to take the shortcut. Gallop like horses over ropy roots. Leap over mud and bones and stones, feet landing nimbly. The slant of the roof is visible now—the orangey glow not yet. We charge ahead.

In the parentless kitchen we work the stove like adults, like college roommates. We make canned soup and packet-cocoa that turns blue when we add water. We take our hot bowls and mugs into Amber Star’s bedroom careful not to spill. We sit indian-style by the big window that is stained with rain. We hate Christy, we decide, because she is a double-crosser and she thinks she’s so hot because she ice-skates. We say double-crosser because we hear it on TV. We think it’s a good lesson to order her pizzas. We call the Dominoes in town and tell them we want fifteen pepperoni pizzas delivered to 220 Golden Ridge Avenue Apartment 18. Amber Star’s face is buried in Mr. Banana’s stomach when I talk. When I hang up she throws Mr. Banana at me. We then call seven or eight phone numbers from the phone book and ask for Jay Jay each time. We think this, too, is funny. I call Mr. Banana a pervert. Mr. Banana wants to hump all the girl-monkeys, I say. I got Mr. Banana when I was three, Amber Star says. And I say So what.

When grown-up women return home they might pretend to have better careers and better relationships than they really have. They might wear something that ordinarily gets ignored when they rifle through their closets. Something that always falls off the hanger because of its weird straps and falls on top of the pile of shoes and stays there for months. These women still like to be feral in a wet wood surrounded by junker cars and mildewy houses. These women still like to say the word pervert.

The mom calls us out to see if I’m eating with them. Amber Star says, Can she spend the night and the mom says yes even though it is a school night. The mom is lean in denim and doesn’t need a bra. She has a smeary blue tattoo on her freckly arm of something delicate that no longer looks delicate. It looks bruisy. It looks like a sailboat or maybe a bird. She is pretty, I think.

The boyfriend is a Rick or a Ray or a Rodge. He is lean in denim, too. He is always in a corner or in a shadow. He doesn’t talk. He stands at the kitchen counter with a magazine. He drinks beer that doesn’t have alcohol in it. Amber Star and I plan on sharing one later and pretending it’s real. Practice.

The candles are lit now. They reflect in the window shaped like a circle. I wish my house had a window shaped liked a circle. I also wish my house had wooden walls that smelled warm and like playground sawdust like they have. We have wallpaper and rectangle windows and no candles are allowed except on birthday cakes. We have smooth sidewalks that know my knees. We have trees that have been painted white—For the bugs, Dad said. We have pumice yards and itchy-grass yards. We are walking-distance to Slurpees and twenty-five-cent prize eggs. Where Amber Star lives there are hitchhikers.

We don’t want dinner, we want dance routine. We want majorette Dallas Cowgirl shimmy like the cool cousin in Tahoe. We go into Amber Star’s room and put a Madonna tape in the tape recorder. Her room is big enough for cartwheels and the kind of leaping spins Christy does on ice-skates. The big slanted window is black with nightness and I can’t see the forest but I know it sees us. I know the orange tee shirt is still there, getting wet for the hundredth time. That the roots we jumped over are there without feet jumping over them. That the kidnappers’ horse is probably cold.

Rick or Ray or Rodge is outside with trash. I hear him slam the car door. I see the little orange pulse of his cigarette. I know he sees us too.

When Amber Star takes off her glasses she is cross-eyed. I think it is cute, pretty even. We lie in her bed with Mr. Banana between us. If Mr. Banana was anybody, who would you want him to be, Amber Star says. She says she would want him to be David Lee Roth so he could hump her. Grody, I say. I would want Mr. Banana to be either Michael J. Fox or Prince. I tell her this. What would you do if it was Michael J. Fox or Prince, she says. Hump, I say. Because we practiced beer-drinking it is time to practice sex. We take our clothes off and Amber Star rolls on top of me. I put my hands on her butt cheeks and I pretend the butt cheeks belong to Michael J. Fox and then Christy’s teenager brother David. We move up and down for a minute and then stop. I had an orgy, Amber Star says. She explains that an orgy is when you feel real good when you are done humping. I have felt this before, when I stayed home sick from school by myself and watched TV from Mom’s bed. I was riding my hands and getting sweaty while watching Bewitched but I wasn’t thinking about Michael J. Fox or Prince or Christy’s brother but of the little starbursts on the ceiling light fixture that I was staring at, and how they seemed to twinkle whenever I heard the sound of Samantha doing magic with her nose.

Amber Star wants to know if I want to be on top. No, I say. I see the orange pulse, that little burning dot outside the slanted window. The forest is watching us, I say.

When grown-up women drive rented cars past water towers and collapsing houses, hidden by shrubbery and sick horses, they wonder about girls named after fiery, sweet-smelling resin and dead suns. They feel traces of their material in their bones. They hope that in a forest, under a certain tree, microscopic fibers of a tee shirt—ripped and moldy and bunched and orange—can be found in the old rain soil.

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Header image courtesy of Allison Debritz. To view more of her work, go here.

Karleigh Frisbie Essay NAILED MagazineKarleigh Frisbie is an MFA candidate at Portland State University, where she also teaches creative nonfiction writing and runs the program’s reading series. She is on the editorial team at Portland Review, on the facing team at Trader Joe’s, on the goth-playlist team in the car, and on other teams.

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The SFV Interviews: Kashmir, by Karen Hunt https://nailedmagazine.com/interview/sfv-interviews-kashmir-karen-hunt/ Fri, 30 Mar 2018 09:00:47 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=interview&p=16899 Growing Up a Girl in the Nightmare of American Suburbia. + + + KAREN HUNT: Welcome to the San Fernando Valley, or the SFV, just north of Los Angeles. The SFV is considered by many to be the most culturally diverse suburb in the United States. It has everything from Calabasas, made infamous by the Kardashians […]

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Growing Up a Girl in the Nightmare of American Suburbia.

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KAREN HUNT: Welcome to the San Fernando Valley, or the SFV, just north of Los Angeles. The SFV is considered by many to be the most culturally diverse suburb in the United States. It has everything from Calabasas, made infamous by the Kardashians reality show; to Pacoima, known for gang violence; to the birth of the porn industry.

Mostly, the SFV is inhabited by ordinary folks struggling to make ends meet, just like anywhere else in America. And, just like anywhere else, it’s a place of dark secrets, where the mask doesn’t always reflect what’s hidden underneath. For girls, especially, navigating this hidden world is a dangerous minefield, a truth which society isn’t always willing to face. These interviews fearlessly expose the truth. I have interviewed several young women about their experience growing up in this area, how they came to terms with their difficult upbringings and what they had to do to break free.

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KASHMIR

Karen Hunt SFV Interview Kashmir NAILED Magazine

 

NAILED: What is the SFV to you?

KASHMIR: The SFV is referred to as “the Valley” and that makes me a “Valley girl.” Being a Valley girl is me having to explain to people I meet that even though I’m from there, I don’t thread the words like, totally, and oh my god throughout all of my sentences, that I have a brain. Being a Valley girl is being an object in a competition with other objects.

The SFV is a place that still triggers my PTSD when I return. A place where I have never had a single female friend that hasn’t been stalked, molested, assaulted, sexually cyber-bullied, or raped.

Heroin is absolutely rampant in the SFV. Ecstasy and coke are the least of your worries, and they are ever-present as well. Date rape is mundanely common and yet women are still in constant competition with each other rather than forming a sisterhood. LA glamour is this huge priority. It is constantly strived for, while also publicly rebuked. It’s a show.

Any parent who told their children high school wasn’t a beauty pageant in the SFV lied.

Karen Hunt SFV Interviews Kashmir NAILED Magazine

Kashmir, her mom and her younger sister all got cockroach tattoos. Kashmir’s boyfriend of
five years got one, too, to show solidarity. Here’s the explanation:

We’re all getting tattoos of cockroaches because they’re resilient. They survive anything. They cannot be killed off. They will never be killed off. They can live anywhere at any climate and at any socioeconomic level. They can even survive nuclear power and radiation. No submission. We’re infiltrating! We are strong, independent women. Not made of the stuff of butterflies and ladybugs and other frail things. When they go, the roach remains.

 

NAILED: Tell us a little bit about the environment in which you grew up. 

KASHMIR: I grew up in a low-income neighborhood of color. I came from a house of abuse. My parents never abused me or my sister, but they abused each other frequently. Police were constantly involved. Though there was a lot of abuse, there was a lot of love and guidance. They were way better parents than they ever were spouses. My parents divorced. I am still incredibly close to both of them.

NAILED: What was the biggest challenge you faced growing up?

KASHMIR: My biggest challenge was probably figuring out where I fit into race. I was Black to White kids, I was White to Black kids. I didn’t really belong anywhere. I am still challenged by how those two truths interact and what it means in regards to my identity.

NAILED: As a teenage girl, what made you feel vulnerable?

KASHMIR: As a teenage girl I was fearless, at least in the beginning. Nothing made me feel vulnerable. Rides from boys, walking through alleyways, accepting drinks… it was all fun and games to me. But as I started to experience things like stalking, sexual harassment, getting roofied, etc…I learned to fear. Then, anything could make me feel nervous. This glass isn’t clear, what if something is in this drink? If he drives really fast, I won’t be able to exit the vehicle and what if I need to get out? It’s getting dark outside, should I stay inside?

After my first rape I developed pretty severe PTSD. I avoided certain colognes, certain streets, anything I discovered that could set me off. But no matter how good I got at avoiding triggers, I never felt less vulnerable. I was raped again a year or so later and faced a whole new batch of triggers to discover and weed out.

NAILED: As a teenage girl, how did you gain power?

KASHMIR: I gained power by continuing to be me, no matter what. After I survived my first rape, my very close friend asked, “Aren’t you going to wear baggy clothes now and take searing showers and stuff?” I flatly told her, no. I said I am going to dress how I want and drink what I want and go where I want because that is what I would have done before. He raped my body, he can’t have my soul.

So many things happened…. As a teenager, a prior friend pulled down my pants when I was sleeping and took pictures of my naked body. He sent them to me a year later. When I told my other male friends about it they told me they knew because he had shown the photos to them and they had complimented my ass. I realized none of those guys were really my friends. That same guy went on to rape one of my best friends two years later.

I gained power by talking about it. The more I talked about it, the more my friends stepped forward and admitted they had also been raped and/ or sexually assaulted.

NAILED: Did you ever fear for your life?

KASHMIR: Many times. One day I was walking home and I noticed someone following me. I was taught that if you are being followed you shouldn’t go home so they won’t know where you live. I stopped in at a fancy apartment complex that had an open park and gym. I decided to wait there because there were so many people around. Finally, I had to pee. I couldn’t see him around I walked into the women’s restroom expecting other women to be there, but I had sealed my fate. Before I even realized he was behind me, he had pushed me through the door and turned around and locked it. I was maneuvered into a stall and he dropped his pants and started masturbating, talking about his wife and kids. His back was pressed against the bathroom door and blocking my exit. I was afraid to shout, wondering what he would be willing to do to shut me up. When he came I used that moment to drop to the floor and roll under the stall. I ran away and never looked back.

A lot of the time I think the only reason I’m alive today is because I have learned to be submissive in these situations. People always ask why you didn’t fight back or why you couldn’t try harder and my answer is simple, because I wanted to live.

NAILED: Did you have a place to go where you felt safe?

KASHMIR: Where is safe? The crowded playground wasn’t safe, even though there were multiple people around to witness a sketchy event. The bathroom wasn’t safe, even though men weren’t supposed to be in there. My first rapist was carrying my body along the L.A. River when the cops found him and he dropped my body and ran away. I guess I could lock myself in my mom’s house but what kind of life is that?

NAILED: Who was the biggest positive influence in your life? 

KASHMIR: My mom. I know she has had the same experiences and so I find strength in her. When my Mom was 19, a cab driver drugged her and was driving her body into the Hollywood hills to rape her. He was also on drugs and so he crashed. My mother woke up months later with full body paralysis and a contraption screwed into her head. They told her she would never walk again, piss by herself or have children. She refused them. Miraculously she was right. My mother did eventually regain body sensation and control and now has a fairly normal life. When I see what she has been through, I find strength.

NAILED: As a teenager, how did younger and older men make you feel about yourself? 

KASHMIR: Young men made me feel pretty great about myself. They often called other women bitches and whores etc., but I was always the exception to the rule. I was “Not like other girls”, they would assure me. I used to chide other women along with them, but as I got older, I realized it was wrong. I realized, I am other girls, and we need to stand up for each other.

I have always valued more than just my looks. I was and am very intelligent. Men were very aware of my quick wit, which was often mistaken for flirting. I was also very physically capable. I often beat boys in wrestling matches and swimming competitions, etc.

Older men were very into control. My interactions with them always seemed to be guided by their need for dominance and it always made me uncomfortable. So, I felt safer dating younger men. A younger guy would gush if you held his hand, an older man would criticize you for not giving him more.

NAILED: As a teenager, how did you perceive drugs, both street and prescription, and how do you perceive them now? 

KASHMIR: As a teenager, I viewed street drugs as something that should be a phase and not a lifestyle. Trying drugs was fine. You only have one life, live it. Seek new experiences. But, I did not believe drugs should become habits. Even habitual marijuana smoking peeved me. Drugs are so addictive, I now realize this was a naïve thing to believe. I viewed prescription drugs as worse than street drugs. I was certain physicians and pharma-reps were the real drug pushers.

I still view drugs mostly the same way but I am more educated about addiction.

NAILED: Did you ever have negative encounters with the police and do you or don’t you trust the police?

KASHMIR: I have had mostly positive experiences with the police. I have been handed back my pipe when searched for weed, I have been pulled over with alcohol in the car and told to “just go home,” and the police saved me from the rapist carrying my body along the LA River.

But, I do not trust police. I do not trust police because my experiences with them are not shared equally with everybody. I have seen how my cousins and other family members are treated by police and they are harassed.  I will not feel safe until we can all feel safe, so no I do not trust the police.

NAILED: Was there a turning point when you decided to alter you path?

KASHMIR: When I decided to go to college. I took time off after high school. By the time I decided to apply, I was 19 and married. By the time the class rolled around, my husband and I had filed for divorce. I was ruined. I moved in with my mother and faced a massive depression. Every morning I would wake up, cry, shower, cry, eat, cry and drive to school. I would walk up to the classroom door, cry, turn around and drive back home to weep on my mother’s couch and stare at the ceiling. I began to plan my suicide. Every morning I drove to school I passed a spot in the LA River that split into 2 separate channels with a wall separating the two. A simple chain link fence was the only thing that guarded it. If I hit that wall at just the right angle, with just enough speed, and I didn’t wear a seatbelt, I was confident I could kill myself and it would look like an accident.

Finally, the day arrived for me to carry out my plan. I got in the car to drive to school. As I approached the place where I planned my demise, I sped up. The speed of the car steadily increased as I calculated my entry point. But then, I thought about my mother. She couldn’t afford a new car if I wrecked the one I was in. She had been through enough. She didn’t deserve that. I slowed the car and calmly drove to school.

I waited until class was over and begged the teacher to re-admit me and she did. From that moment on, I stayed in college. I received an A in that class and high marks in all my other classes. I received 5 Associate’s degrees and am currently working on my double Bachelor’s. All because I made that one decision, Don’t do that to your Mother, she can’t afford a new car.

NAILED: Do you and your friends trust the political parties in America? 

KASHMIR: Nobody my age or younger trusts political parties (at least that I have met). Young people view the government as a mockery, an embarrassment. We want to travel the world and learn new things but we’re ashamed of how we are probably viewed there. We want to say, “It’s not our fault!” “It was before our time!” “We are not all like that!” “It will get better!” and “Just wait for us!” but we can’t.

NAILED: What did you have to give up in order to succeed?

KASHMIR: My old friends. Worth it.

NAILED: What did you have to add to your life in order to succeed?

KASHMIR: True determination. I come home from work at 11:30pm at night, take off my apron, sit down and immediately start studying.

Also, responsible friends; friends that respect when you are busy and do not try to peer pressure you, friends that can have educated discourses with you when you are actually free.

Debt… I had to add debt to my life to succeed, which makes me a slave, ironically, at the same time.

NAILED: Is there someone living now or from history who greatly inspires you?

KASHMIR: My Mother. Maya Angelou.

NAILED: Do you have a favorite quote?

KASHMIR: “If she gets what she wants, will she want what she gets?”

Basically we all know she can get it, but once she does, will she want it? I think often times women desire things that they were told to desire and are starkly disappointed when they achieve those goals.

NAILED: If you could talk to all the teenage girls today, what would you tell them?

KASHMIR: Love yourself. If you can’t love yourself, then you can’t properly love anybody else. Respect your sisters. All of us women are in this together. You should support all other women’s choices. You can disagree with those choices, but fight for their right to make those choices. Understand intersectionality. What is beneficial to you may not be beneficial to someone of another race, class, religion, sexual orientation. Educate yourself about the past, so that it is none of our future. Call yourself a feminist. Understand that you never owe it to anybody to “look your best,” not even to yourself.

Karen Hunt SFV Interviews Kashmir NAILED magazinr

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Karen Hunt SFV Interviews Kashmir NAILED MagazineKashmir Hughes is a 27-year old Black Caribbean-American writer, behavioral therapist and student. Much of her creative and academic writing revolves around ethnographical work and testimonies of hurt, healing, difference and intersectionality. Over the years, Kashmir’s work has covered various topics: from love and happiness, to drug addiction and rape. Kashmir’s work provides an honest account of several taboo subjects, providing written solace and support for those coming to terms with complex sentiments. Through writing, Kashmir hopes to give readers a safe space to confess private and uncomfortable experiences and emotions. Kashmir’s most recent publication, in an academic WOC feminist journal, underlines the struggles and triumphs of Black lineage and assimilation into American culture. She was also recently quoted in a photobook depicting the realities of depression. Kashmir graduated UCSC with a double-bachelors degree in Psychology and Sociology with a concentration in social inequality and conflict resolution. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles, doing ABA therapy with children on the spectrum, and plans to apply again to school for her Master’s degree and eventually her Ph.D.

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Karen Hunt aka KH Mezek is, more than anything, a traveler. For the past two years, she has been on walkabout, writing her childhood memoir, Into the World, and her YA Urban Fantasy series, Night Angels Chronicles. “Reflections from Istanbul,” an excerpt from Into the World, won the 2015 New Millennium Writers Nonfiction Award. She is the author of numerous essays, co-founder of InsideOUT Writers, a creative writing program for incarcerated youth, and founder of MY WORLD PROJECT, an arts program connecting indigenous youth around the world. An avid full contact fighter and trainer, she is a 2nd degree black belt in Tang Soo Do and a first degree brown belt in Eskrima. It’s hard to say where her adventures will lead her next, but her passport is up to date and she is ready to go. Find her on Twitter: @karenalainehunt

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Poetry by Fiona Chamness https://nailedmagazine.com/poetry/poetry-fiona-chamness/ Wed, 28 Mar 2018 09:00:32 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=poetry&p=16896   Poetry by Fiona Chamness. + + + Flytrap For D.A. Chad Seigal, who defended clients accused of rape by saying of the vagina, “It’s not like a Venus Flytrap, and snaps?” I knew a boy in elementary school who collected carnivorous plants. Flytraps, pitcher plants, sundews, cobras, butterworts, bladder traps, corkscrews, waterwheels. He was big […]

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Poetry by Fiona Chamness.

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Flytrap

For D.A. Chad Seigal, who defended clients accused of rape by saying of the vagina, “It’s not like a Venus Flytrap, and snaps?”

I knew a boy in elementary school who collected carnivorous plants. Flytraps, pitcher plants, sundews, cobras, butterworts, bladder traps, corkscrews, waterwheels. He was big and loud and had a deadly peanut allergy. He brought a Flytrap for show and tell and after that all anyone said about him was Venus Flytrap, Carnivorous Plant Boy, he has a collection. I’ve heard it’s freaky. I was friends with his sister. She kept her head down, had no allergies and no flowering predators, and she did all right. I went over to their house and asked to see the boy’s collection. He took me shyly to the door. A dim grotto, shot through with dusty sun; even the light was green. Some plants were gray and stiff, some had obscene red veins deep in the centers of their leaves. Some just sat, waiting. He didn’t have to demonstrate.

Around the edges of the Flytrap are long brilliant hairs. They move faster than the human eye can blink, but they are not the hairs that catch the insect. Those are on the inside. You have to touch one within twenty seconds of touching another for the Trap to close, to prevent it from wasting its energy. The hairs inside the Trap are so sensitive they can tell the difference between a moving insect and drops of rain falling. Once the Trap closes, the long hairs on the outside lace together like a corset, forming a hermetic seal. What was once a mouth becomes a stomach. The plant’s digestive acids reduce the insect to a chitin shell. The plant itself is odorless to us. It is only to flies and beetles that it smells like shit and rotting meat. What we smell in the Flytrap is not the Flytrap; it’s the carcasses inside.

I ate something in the kitchen with the boy and his sister. They had two moms. The girl wrote about it on a piece of paper the day we were supposed to write something we wished people wouldn’t tease us about. The boy would say loudly, You know technically I’m a bastard, you can’t say it’s a bad word, it’s just the truth, I’m a bastard. One of the moms had a book on a shelf across the kitchen table called MEN WHO RAPE. I had never seen that word in a sunny window, out in the open with all the other words. I went to extract it from our giant set of school encyclopedias. I told some girls afterward that I’d found it, proud, or ashamed, after one of them had looked up sex and bragged for days. They gave me disappointed looks. One said, that’s not that bad. When I told them later about the plant collection, they were more impressed. What a freak. Was it freaky. I said it wasn’t. Freaky had changed as I rooted furtively among the R’s. What I’d found wasn’t much like a Flytrap. Really, it was nothing like a Flytrap at all.

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The Story of How I Become My Mother

 

The dishroom is a hurricane of porcelain. Lizzy
says It’s crazy out there, fixes her apron

strings with twig fingers. Stack trays, slide
them in, cascade ice from half-

drunk glasses with a sound like laundry change.
Steam wilts the flowers on my dress.

I am fast and strong. I feel like a girl here, rag,
muscle, constant commotion behind a scrim.

I catch us up as Lizzy feeds the machine,
duck my head just once into the dining room

to check its clock. Louisa, server, Hermes of dishes,
says Hey, hey, normally I would never ask this,

but if you have time could you go round
and take used plates from people? I wonder

if Louisa knows I can’t keep my balance
for a minute, this low oak room a minefield

of silverwhere, my feet two drunken Marx
brothers. I take a tray and like that,

I become my mother. No one told me the membrane
between dishroom and dining could split the seam

of 25 years, but here are the same old faces. Here
are her hands, this matte black disk like a record piled

with cutlery against her hip. Here a host
of directions: never set the tray

on the table. Never let the customer put the plate
on the tray. Heineken drinkers tip. Don’t spill. Take on

more than you can manage. Smile and look down. Our mind
crackles in static with my body. One of us drops

a fork. I skirt in and out, ferry dishes from the beast’s mouth
to its belly. This stone basement where my mother

once worked, its name like a fairy story, the story
of how I become my mother. My body, dish machine,

buzz of voices across the wood and lights, builds itself
from resonances. The dress whispers to the knee,

Where did this daughter come from,
and the knee says, She crashed down like a broken teacup.

And the dress asks Is she carrying all we’re carrying,
the father who is a sealed and sweating can, the sisters

who are soaking coasters and folded napkins,
brothers clattering and frothing through the house

til they go warm and flat – and the knee says Shh.
Here are Lizzy and Louisa. There they go behind

the dishroom door. I finish my shift. I think Who carries what
and with what muscle. I am your rag and girl,

mother. We’re not stupid. We know even
what we’ve never been told.

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The God Of Vomit

 

I am a doctor’s daughter; I know
there is no such thing as uncomplicated prayer.
Belly, you roll-eyed saint, cloud
of blood, coil of convulsing wire.
When the body is not fed first thing
in the morning, it begins after a few hours
to eat its own protein, so if I wake
with you knotted in yourself,
unable to open, or issuing bile
like a forced confession, I have
no choice: I will shrink. I will kneel
in the bathroom to the altar
of your disappearance. I will lose more of you
each time, begin looking
for you everywhere: blood tests
that leave me woozy on the table.
Swearing off a hundred substances, each
more unlikely than the last. Again and again
they will ask if I am pregnant.
When all the papers show
a litany of negatives, I will begin to wonder
about the opposite of exorcism. How do you ask
the demon to come home?

+ + +

Lesson

 

The brother pushes his sister
on the merry-go-ground. She grips
a rail and wings her legs.
FASTER, she says;
he pushes faster. FASTER.
He pushes. FASTER.
STOP, she screams. He grabs the rail
to halt the ride. She falls
down giggling. She says
AGAIN. He laughs. AGAIN?
He asks. AGAIN. The metal
whirls. A DOG WOULD DO
A BETTER JOB, she shrieks,
dissolving. OH REALLY?
Faster. AN ANT WOULD DO
A BETTER JOB! Laughter
like a teacup-throwing
contest. FASTER.
He goes faster. STOP.
He stops. IT’S NOT SCARY,
she says. IT’S NOT SCARY?
He asks. IT’S NOT SCARY,
she says, I CAN HANDLE IT.
Around, around, around.
He has a pair of strong,
lean arms. STOP, she says,
IT’S SCARY IT’S SCARY
IT’S SCARY. He stops
right then. I’m not scared,
she says, why
would I ever be scared?

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Tests

 

Don’t talk to that man, my mother said. He’s off.
He can be dangerous. But what a bike, festooned for spring
in streams of paper and bright red balloons,
bells splashing the air, and didn’t I see sometimes
things turning into other things at the eye-edge
of the sidewalk, feel as though my whole body
might suddenly die, sprint from nowhere
across the parking lot, a leaf swept up in a violent
inner gust? Didn’t my mother always say you’re
a lunatic, you’re a space cadet, out of control,
a little cracked? (Eggshell. Windowpane. Tooth.)
The man didn’t speak or draw too close. Hello, hello,
I said, or didn’t. I went in for tests that involved pictures
of apples, strings of numbers to be recited backwards,
a woman who asked about feelings while I drew pictures
ad nauseam of houses and mice. How did I do?
It’s not that kind of test, my mother said. House, house,
house. Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle. She said he came back wrong
from the war. She gave me my results and I lost them.
I came back wrong from the beginning. What monstrosity,
all this returning. Where is that war, that beautiful war
where we can go to come back right?

 

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Header image courtesy of Anton Krasnikov. To view his photo essay, “Speak it Easy,” go here.

Fiona Chamness Poetry Nailed MagazineFiona Chamness is a poet, essayist, fiction writer and musician based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her published work can be found in PANK, Blood Lotus Journal, the Bear River Review, Radius Lit, Muzzle Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, and the Beloit Poetry Journal as well as in several anthologies and in the full length-poetry collection Feral Citizens, co-authored with Aimée Lê. She was the recipient of the Beloit Poetry Journal’s Chad Walsh Prize in 2014. As a musician, she released a solo album, Dispatches from the Well, on Insister Records in 2012. She is also guitarist, co-vocalist, and co-songwriter for the queer feminist punk band Cutting Room Floor, whose debut album You Shouldn’t Be Here was released in 2013.

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Promise Land by Lydia Panas https://nailedmagazine.com/photography/promise-land-lydia-panas/ Mon, 26 Mar 2018 09:00:26 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=photography&p=16893 A photo essay by Lydia Panas. + + + LYDIA PANAS: This work is about the things we keep hidden that create imaginary guilt and shame and prevent us from being all we want to be. The images attempt to describe how we feel when love is being withheld. The models are stand-ins for my feelings […]

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A photo essay by Lydia Panas.

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LYDIA PANAS: This work is about the things we keep hidden that create imaginary guilt and shame and prevent us from being all we want to be. The images attempt to describe how we feel when love is being withheld. The models are stand-ins for my feelings as a young girl, of hidden thoughts, uncertainty, and shame, generated by the fear of rejection. This is my story. I am a white woman, of Greek ancestry, an immigrant who spent my earliest years crossing the Atlantic Ocean twice. Both instances landed me in a country without the language to communicate.

Promise Land portrays women and girls as stand-ins for me. These are my feelings, learned within the home as well as public expectations. The story is mine, but I believe it is felt by all. I photograph my personal landscape in rural Pennsylvania, which includes friends and others who are willing to model.

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 + + +

Lydia Panas Photography NAILED MagazineLydia Panas’s photographs have been exhibited widely throughout the United States and internationally. Her work has won many awards and featured extensively in periodicals such as the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Photo District News and Popular Photog­raphy and The Wall Street Journal Blog. Her work is held in numerous public and private collections including the Brooklyn Museum; The Bronx Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Allentown Art Museum; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; The Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; The Sheldon Museum, and Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai among others. She has degrees from Boston College, School of Visual Arts, and New York University/ In­ternational Center of Photography. Panas also received a Whitney Museum Independent Study Fellowship and a CFEVA Fellowship. Her first monograph “The Mark of Abel” (Kehrer Verlag), was named a Photo District News Book, a Photo Eye Best Book as well as a best coffee table book by The Daily Beast. Her second book Falling From Grace was released in 2016. She lives and works in Pennsylvania and New York.

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A Bipolar Child by Pamela Carter https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/bipolar-child-pamela-carter/ Fri, 23 Mar 2018 09:00:12 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=16871   A personal essay by Pamela Carter. + + + I grew up in the 1950s in a small log cabin located in an intermountain valley west of Denver. Our lives were primitive; all our water had to be hauled in five-gallon cans from the community well three miles away, and we bathed once a week […]

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A personal essay by Pamela Carter.

+ + +

I grew up in the 1950s in a small log cabin located in an intermountain valley west of Denver. Our lives were primitive; all our water had to be hauled in five-gallon cans from the community well three miles away, and we bathed once a week in an aluminum tub filled with water warmed atop the wood-burning stove that took up most of our kitchen. We had no central heating, even though temperatures frequently dropped below zero in the winter, so the house was drafty and cold much of the year. Still, it was heaven to me. Ranches and open spaces surrounded our cabin, and the natural beauty and abundant wildlife fired my already active imagination.

In the summer I often rose in the dusky dawn light and climbed out my bedroom window before anyone else in the household was awake. I would catch my horse, Tammy, grab a hank of her mane, and swing myself onto her bare back. Tammy had been badly abused as a filly, and it left her more feral than tame—one of the reasons I loved her so much. But she had come to trust me and, unencumbered by saddle or bridle, was responsive and well behaved. I could guide her by pressing my knees against her sides, and together we would make our way in the hazy morning light, the air filled with birdsong, to a saddle of land on the Falcon Wing Ranch. The memory of the piercingly fresh air remains clear even now, almost sixty years later. From the rise of the saddle, I’d watch the sun rise over the sleeping city below.

When the air warmed up some, I’d ride Tammy to a small pond on the ranch, strip off my clothes, and urge her into the still-cold water, then hang onto her mane as she pulled me to the other side. Later, I’d climb out into the high grass growing at the edge of the pond and let the morning sun dry my naked body. I loved the sense of freedom I felt lying naked in the grass. I loved being naked, period, and wore clothes as little as possible. Other days I’d ride Tammy to an outcropping of rocks on the Holland Ranch and lie shirtless (free as a boy) as I made nooses of grass to try to catch the blue-tailed skinks that slithered across the rocks. I never caught any, but I loved the feel of the sun-warmed roughness of the sandstone against my chest and belly. Maybe my father’s worry over my “wildness” was a reasonable thing after all.

The best days were those when I led Tammy around the edge of the cattle guard on the Tall Timbers Ranch, where a herd of Black Angus grazed in the woodland meadows. There was an old house built of sun-dried mud bricks where I kept my Big Chief tablet and No. 2 pencils from my mother’s prying eyes. She disapproved of my writing and would tear up any story she found, so I wrote in secret here on the ranch. I loved these days when I didn’t see or speak to another person.

+

I was born in 1948, half a century before Dmitri and Janice Papolos published their seminal work on childhood-onset bipolar disorder, The Bipolar Child, so I was seen as an exceptionally bright but difficult child rather than one with a treatable mental illness. In our small community I was known for my oppositional, defiant behavior, explosive temper, and love of risky adventures. Many mothers felt I’d be a bad influence on their daughters, and I received few invitations to birthday parties or sleepovers. Luckily my mother’s best friend, Nigel, took me as I was, and she had four sons who I counted as friends.

The year I was twelve, Nigel took me, her sons, and my two younger brothers on a four-day camping trip that gave rise to the most memorable escapade of my childhood. The last night of the trip, Guy—Nigel’s eldest, who was my age and a good friend—and I were fishing in the river that ran through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison when we saw an enormous bird float through the air and disappear into a crack in the cliff on the opposite side of the canyon.

“That’s a great horned owl, and I bet she’s got some owlets up there,” Guy said. “You don’t see many of them.”

I knew immediately I had to have one of the owlets to rear; they were uncommon and would grow to be so huge. It took me a while to talk Guy into capturing one of the young birds, but I finally persuaded him. The next morning we crawled out of our sleeping bags just after sunrise and set off for the place we thought we’d seen the mother owl disappear into the cliff. Guy handed me a large stick. “The mother’s going to attack if we take one of her babies, so you beat her off me before she can tear me to pieces.” Guy had a rope slung over one shoulder to use to capture the young owl. We started climbing. It was hard going, having only one hand to grasp the rock and pull ourselves upward. We finally reached the aerie a hundred feet above the river. Inside were three fledgling owlets, but we didn’t see the mother. It smelled musty inside, and the owlets backed away from the opening when we stuck our heads inside. The young owls were much bigger than I expected, maybe two feet tall. They clicked their beaks at us but made no other noise. Guy was a ranch kid with excellent roping skills. He unwound the rope and snaked it out over the branches and bones that filled the aerie and snagged the owlet nearest us around its legs and dragged it to us. The owlet continued to click its beak as we started back down the cliff. I watched out for the mother, but she floated up silently behind us and grabbed Guy by the small of his back with her talons before I had any idea she was close. I tried to hit her, but almost knocked Guy off the cliff instead. Going down was much harder than climbing up. I kept swinging my stick at the mother without much success, and within minutes Guy’s shirt was blood-soaked and in tatters. I began to wonder what I’d gotten us into. Finally the mother flew back into the aerie, and we were free to climb down to the river, holding the owlet upside down and trying to avoid his clicking beak. I began to worry about what Nigel would say when she saw Guy’s back and shirt; she’d know the idea to climb the cliff had been mine.

But all she said when we came into camp was “I don’t want to hear one word about how you got that owl.” And she never did. We named the owl Al and fed him ground beef and mashed bananas, a diet that seemed to agree with him. Of course my mother wouldn’t let me keep him, so Al went back to Nigel’s ranch when they left near the end of summer. He never became fully wild. Guy told me in one of his rare letters that every night Al flew to Guy’s bedroom window and sat on the sill, clicking his beak.

I didn’t begin treatment for bipolar until the age of thirty, and as I approach seventy, I realize I have never become fully “tame.”

I’m not sure I regret it.

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Header image courtesy of Valerie Usui. To see more of her work, go here.

 

Pamela Carter Essay NAILED MagazinePamela Carter graduated with honors from the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law and practiced briefly after graduation. Her work has appeared in Midway JournalPamplemousseTucumsus, and now NAILED.

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Day of the Dead by Michael Schwarz https://nailedmagazine.com/photography/day-dead-michael-schwarz/ Wed, 21 Mar 2018 09:00:52 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=photography&p=16868 A photo essay by Michael Schwarz. + + + From the photographer: On October 31st, Children skip through the 600-year old streets of Patzcuaro, Mexico, collecting candy, as families, business owners, and churches prepare for the annual Dia de los Muertos celebration the following day. Vibrant orange marigolds hang from every tree, archway, and sign in […]

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A photo essay by Michael Schwarz.

+ + +

From the photographer:

On October 31st, Children skip through the 600-year old streets of Patzcuaro, Mexico, collecting candy, as families, business owners, and churches prepare for the annual Dia de los Muertos celebration the following day. Vibrant orange marigolds hang from every tree, archway, and sign in sight. The mouth-watering scent of cooking elotes drift across the town square, as traditional dancers bound amidst the hanging globe lights. Patzcuaro is known for its rich and traditional celebration of the holiday, and this is just the beginning.

Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” is an annual celebration deeply rooted in Mexican tradition, family values, honoring the deceased, and respecting your elders. The celebration is commonly misunderstood – being incorrectly associated with Halloween, pagan rituals, and costumes. Day of the Dead was originally celebrated by the indigenous Aztec population over 3,000 years ago. After the Spanish colonized Mexico in the 1600’s, the holiday was moved from the early summer to October 31st—November 2nd to coincide with the Catholic tradition All Saint’s Day. It then became a syncretization of Aztec ritual and Catholicism.

Each family constructs an altar around their loved one’s gravesite. This alter serves as a portal for the dead to enter the world of the living during the festival period. These memorials are quite expansive – consisting of wooden frames, thousands of marigolds, and prolific offerings of food.

The three shelves of food represent heaven, earth, and the underworld. Items honoring the saints of the Catholic Church are placed on the top shelf, while favorite foods and personal items of the deceased are placed on the lower shelves. It is believed that the cross of salt at the base helps purify souls as they cross into the world of the living. The candles and marigolds help guide the souls with their bright color and strong scents.

Families work tirelessly, creating some of the most elaborately decorated grave sites in all of Mexico. Spirits are high, and families reminisce together over homemade dinners as they prepare for the evening. When families arrive at the gravesites, musicians surround them as they set up the altar face, light the candles, and burn copal (or incense). The copal aroma is said to purify the souls of the dead as they enter the world of the living. The mariachis serenade the families as they call upon their loved ones. After they leave, the family settles in to eat, drink, and reminisce.

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Michael Schwarz Photography NAILED MagazineMichael is a photojournalist and the founder of Wicked Pittsburgh Art Collective. He lives in Brooklyn and specializes in a wide array of photo and video work, as well as written journalism, investigative reporting, and spot news coverage. His work has been published by the Associated PressThe GuardianThe Huffington Post, and Viewfind.

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Poetry by Carrie Bennett https://nailedmagazine.com/poetry/poetry-carrie-bennett/ Mon, 19 Mar 2018 09:00:45 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=poetry&p=16839   Poems by Carrie Bennett. These poems are erasures/partial erasures/contain specific language from Judith Butler’s essay “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution” and/or reference Marina Abramovic’s performance art. + + +   [Dress Rehearsal]   She stands center stage ………………..from a distance the director instructs:………… make your body into a tree ….close your eyes ….you are […]

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Poems by Carrie Bennett. These poems are erasures/partial erasures/contain specific language from Judith Butler’s essay “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution” and/or reference Marina Abramovic’s performance art.

+ + +

 

[Dress Rehearsal]

 

She stands center stage ………………..from a distance
the director instructs:………… make your body
into a tree ….close your eyes ….you are the tree
make breath a door without hinges
don’t think too much………… your job is not to think
your job is to be all ….body
let your body speak ….in stillness & desire
the audience will watch ………………..don’t worry
about the blank darkness………… it will come
& you will greet it with………… love
this is a generous act how………… you give yourself
don’t forget ….your body is not………… your own
when you sleep ………………..different acts
will be done………… that you won’t remember
do not fear………… the audience ….will have fun
all objects ………………..have a purpose ….a piece
of glass …………………..to fill with water ….you
will watch………… it sink

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[Mask Monologue]

 

……………………………………………………..S: I found a dark hole & fell down…… Deep in the
……………………………………………………..ground dust & wood…… soot & clay…… I found
……………………………………………………..a floor to fall…… down I just…… moved I moved
……………………………………………………..farther away…… falling a wall small squares
……………………………………………………..hands I was …… fallow…… I fell until lightloud
……………………………………………………..a breaking…… began to stray…… hidden there in

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[Costumes]

 

She is always ready on stage over time the body grows like a tree….within fields compelling fictions or….. sedimentation as a view S says there are cores to conceal this world or is it corpses to carry one no a coup a coupling a compulsion compels the script I am always wrong in this body barely buried away but….when the body is….. planted find the right container

Her performance begins in 15 minutes / time to prep & preen / pamper & ponder each inch / this is S’s big moment / to prove her worth

+ + +

[Scene Two: A Greek Chorus]

 

A chorus speaks / surrounds S in a semicircle / o pretty pattern / o lacy bras & G-strings / o body odor / o armpits slathered with soap / o counting down the razor / quick cut the wax & pull the worry stinking up the room / o perfect breaths & mouths / perform your duty perfumed / o putrid underside / o belly burdened with so many holes / o doesn’t it feel good / to be observed / from this distance / /

+ + +

[Scene Three: Organizing the Body]

 

Head bent over
………………..S sits under a lamp
sorting bullets
………………..what is hidden
inside each dirty
………………..shell & flesh
her feet pushed
………………..into a bucket
of more bullets
………………..sunflower seeds
pollute the skin
………………..another organ
that waits
………………..wanting/wasting

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[Scene Four: The Operation]

 

The metal beds……………………….. S naked
……….the operation …….takes two hours
in the theater ….glass ….walls ….seats ….we

look down ….at her ….first the body
………………..is put ….to sleep
……….a set of numbers
………………………….told backwards
………………..S becomes ….a piece
……….of glass or ….an animal
that doesn’t ….matter or ….matters
even less
………………..than her ….animalself
……….suffer the prying
………………..o hidden incision
all that ….is sacred/scared will
.………………………..be forgotten

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[Intermission]

 

All night S ………………………..start here
dies on stage ……………………there once
suspended ………………………was a hole
by a thin ………………………….in a frozen
string a single ……………………ground
star shines ……………………….thick plastic
so dark …………………………..walls glowing
it becomes ………………………red under
a punctured ……………………..the ceiling
clot or I …………………………..new rituals

+ + +

[Curtain Call]

 

Years go by / S stays inside / light-filled trees & the hole becomes a mouth then hands everywhere hands & arms / bodies pressing faces & more mouths / when a stage remains silent it is already gone / /

S is a play / she doesn’t know & rake away / the words & drugs sex & time /the tree is naked look how the tree stands there / taking what you / give it

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Header image courtesy of Meggan Joy. To see more of her work, go here.

Carrie Bennett Poetry NAILED MagazineCarrie Bennett is a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellow and author of biography of water (The Word Works), The Land Is a Painted Thing (Word Works), and several chapbooks from dancing girl press: The Quiet WinterAnimals in Pretty Cages, and The Affair Fragments. Her poems have appeared in Boston ReviewCaketrainDenver Quarterlyjubilat among others. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently teaches writing at Boston University.

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In My Here, In My Now, In My Body by Christie Tate https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/my-here-my-now-my-body-christie-tate/ Fri, 16 Mar 2018 09:00:41 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=16834 A personal essay by Christie Tate. + + +   He was an intern at my law firm, and he dressed like he was still an undergrad at University of Wisconsin. He drove a shiny black SUV that his Daddy paid for. He went out every night to cheer the Chicago Bulls or eat at the […]

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A personal essay by Christie Tate.

+ + +

 

He was an intern at my law firm, and he dressed like he was still an undergrad at University of Wisconsin. He drove a shiny black SUV that his Daddy paid for. He went out every night to cheer the Chicago Bulls or eat at the latest sushi hot spot. He was twenty four, but he seemed like a boy–wild, arrogant, bi-curious, fond of cocaine, and determined to one day marry a nice Jewish girl.

And there was me. Named after Jesus Christ himself, and also, a sober, scrappy, devoted rule-follower, and paver of her own way. A 30-year-old spinster. When he emailed me and we began to flirt like two highly charged batteries with above-average verbal SAT scores, I was amused. I like words, smart guys, and novelties. What were a few emails between a practicing lawyer and a job aspirant?

“Will you let yourself have an orgasm with him?” asked my therapist.

Wait. What? He wasn’t a prospect, he was a plaything. Someone to taunt through cyberspace with references to Mr. Rochester and my liberal politics. I thought I was in recovery from playthings.

“No, you’re in recovery for refusing to play.”

“So he could be, like, practice?” That answer got two thumbs up from the Good Doctor.

“Someone to help you shatter the cage of your family history of addiction and violation, all of which is dressed up as morality.”

My accomplice, the beautiful boy-toy, had washed the car, made a hip hop mixtape, and picked a trendy restaurant that specialized the artisanal pickles.

When I said yes you can kiss me, and yes, I’ll stay the night, the glass walls shattered all around me. I leaped over the shards and ran down the hall, leaving the cage and that rigid old script that had stiffened and disintegrated to bits. It fluttered in illegible, yellowed pieces behind me.

That first night, sprung from my cage and out in the open air, I gulped the fresh oxygen in huge, heaving breaths.

So this is what it’s like to snatch my body and its pleasure back from all the greedy hands that had staked a claim on it. Now it belonged to me.

My lungs were full of the same air that belonged to my city, the sky, and my young lover with the Al Green on his stereo and the adorably cliché leather couch.

My skin sizzled with touch and had no narrative beyond the word “More.”

My roiling insides obeyed my single agenda: pleasure.

I wasn’t leaving without my orgasm. Doctor’s orders. Five minutes in his bedroom was all it took. His tongue on my neck was a song I’d never heard.

My mind was right there in the room, right there in my body. Not on the ceiling, not on the balcony, not in Goddamned Texas, or in a 12-step meeting.

In my here.

In my now.

In my body.

This was what it meant to fuck without having to save anyone, not your own soul or your partner’s. This was sex without looking over your shoulder at your mom or dad’s ghost. This was sex that obeyed the laws of pleasure–and the number rule of pleasure is that family members must wait in the car. Or stay home with their frowny faces, criticisms, tsk-tsks, and Calvinist-Catholic-misogynist blah blah blah. Their bullshit belongs somewhere by the side of the road.  This was the end of fucking according to their rules.

This was a space for Yes and for More. It was bodies without promises and narratives without arcs.

This was the new birthright, which was actually the old one that got lost in the crawl space in the walls of the Dallas home of my childhood or tucked away in that old woven beach bag we took to Padre Island. This was three orgasms in and then bursting into tears, telling my plaything that I love the smell of bleach in his bathroom and the thing he did with this tongue back there and that he can fuck right off for voting for George W. Bush and for his Jewish-girls only policy. But none of it was a deal-breaker or deal-maker. It was just two bodies, clean sheets, and all that fresh air.

The story’s not about him, even though I want to tell you more about how fucking clean his bathroom was. He must have scrubbed on his hands and knees with that bottle of bleach. But I did the heavy lifting.  When he rattled the lock, I kicked the door with both my feet and slammed my body against it. I scrambled to freedom, one orgasm at a time.

This was nobody’s secret and nobody’s business. It was present day. It was Chicago with its sooty Jeweler’s building, horizon full of lake, and the moon winking over the el train.

This was a break in the old narrative kept me small and brittle and a million miles away from my own pleasure. This was goodbye to the tethers of repression and approval and virtue; a sloughing off of “but what will they say?” and “what’s going to happen?” This was the family scapegoat slipping through a hole in the fence and running for the horizon.

I never looked back.

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Header image courtesy of Mojo Wang. To view his artist feature, go here.

Christie Tate Editors Choice NAILED MagazineChristie Tate is a writer and lawyer in Chicago. She is working on a memoir, How to Change Your Love Life in 800 Therapy Sessions, about her many, many adventures in group therapy. Her work has been published in The Washington PostThe Chicago TribuneMcSweeney’s, and Brain, Child.

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Pride by Claire McCulley https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/pride-claire-mcculley/ Wed, 15 Nov 2017 10:00:40 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=16830   A personal essay by Claire McCulley. + + + PRIDE prīd/ noun the best state or condition of something; the consciousness of one’s own dignity [the alley opens into a clench of rainbow. your heart beats bravely on your sleeve, your palm sweating lightly in the late-june heat, skin to skin with hers] when you […]

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A personal essay by Claire McCulley.

+ + +

PRIDE
prīd/ noun
the best state or condition of something;
the consciousness of one’s own dignity

[the alley opens into a clench of rainbow. your heart beats bravely on your sleeve, your palm sweating lightly in the late-june heat, skin to skin with hers]

when you were sixteen, you made a pact with yourself. you sat in your room and made a list of the boys you would love, and you told yourself you would not break this vow. you would play grave-digger to the rest of it. it, being the girls. the girls, the girls, god, their hands and their eyes and their backs and their hips, their ambulating laughter and your quivering, honest pulse. you would throw dirt over all that and forget about it. and there would never be a later. that list of names felt like a paper prison. it settled over you like a cage while you folded it and put it in a drawer and moved through the world with a certain kind of sorrow. you ate at yourself like cancer.

[you have never heard such a noise in all your life. it swims through your bones. people are yelling and yelling and they are free and you are yelling too. your throat opens like a door. there is no more hiding here. no white X across your body, marking you condemned] 

when you were seventeen, you fell in love with a girl. when you were seventeen, you turned yourself inside out with confusion. with fear. you knew who you were and you were afraid of it. you opened your journal and wrote: tuesday, 5pm, i will stop loving her, i will take her paintings off the walls and box her up, i will teach myself to love differently, i will make this end. you opened your journal and said: friday, 6am, i woke up loving her but i will not go to sleep that way, i will unlearn my feelings, i will stop, i will be strong enough to make it stop. but you failed, sweet baby. you failed.

[there are people who should be here but aren’t. forty-nine bricks stand missing from their wall. the plaster crumbles whitely around that vacant space, aching to hold what is gone. there are people whose bodies were ravaged and torn, whose love was shot out of the sky. the crowd is quieter without them. you feel the loss, in your teeth, in your blood. you hold her hand and take in air that doesn’t belong to them anymore, and you stand, glad to be alive. glad to suffer in the beauty of the second chance. glad to tumble up into this messy world for another day, another hour, another touch, another gasp. glad to hurt with your eyes open]

when you were eighteen, you told a girl you loved her. quietly, hesitantly, but with all your heart. when you were eighteen, you began the task of learning how to love someone with no instruction manual. no one prepared you for this. you brought flowers and dedication and dreamed of kissing her until neither of you were human anymore, until you grew wings and left earth together. you promised you would do a good job. you got off the bus and ran through the park and found her and held her until the sting of the word fag left her ears. you learned how to be a woman in the loving of another woman.

[but this is not a day of grief or shadow. this is a day of celebration. you are drowning in light, euphoric. you cut off the hands of those who have tried to fuck you over, murder you in their hatred. you let your flags fly free. you kiss her without a stitch of terror, and you remember a time when that was unfathomable]

when you were nineteen, you kissed a girl on your bed, clumsily, finding your way toward each other like two uncertain magnets. you didn’t know what you were doing and wished you did. you waved goodbye to her through your window when she left later, and fiddled with the buttons on your flannel, because that’s what gay girls wore, didn’t they? except you weren’t gay. gay and lesbian were perfectly fine words when not applied to you. you preferred not to be labeled. you lay awake in the dark and said lesbian and shivered with recognition, then shoved it away from yourself. you were a magician, a sorcerer. i am a lesbian, you thought. now watch me disappear.

[there is a couple here who has been together since 1976, two women illuminated, who must have loved each other through riots and rallies and heartache and reconstruction and progress, who must have held each other tight as the world changed shape beneath their feet. you imagine loving someone that hard and that long. you imagine the i do of it all, the vow that existed beyond the united states constitution. the love that could not wait for congress to pass a law. you are humbled to exist in the same world as them. to see them, and say: i am one of you]

when you were almost twenty, you took the word lesbian off the shelf and put it on. and it felt so good. and you cried and twirled and watched yourself in the mirror, a white flag at last. when you were almost twenty you stood on a stage in a flannel shirt, because that’s what gay girls wore, and spoke about yourself without shame. when you were almost twenty, you wrote poems about women and regretted none of them. you met a woman who shook you like a storm the color of rubies. you grew yourself inside your own womb. and it hurt. like god must have hurt when she spun the earth out of thin air.

[when you are twenty, fifty city blocks turn prismic, technicolor bright. they call you home. and you go there. you go with a woman who loves you so ineffably that you don’t remember how to feel undeserving anymore. you go with a woman who looks like the future. you breathe deeply and there is no catch in your throat. no lingering torment. just love and noise and color and light. flags and movement. dancing. breathing. arrival. and her her her her her her her]

you crawled out of the graveyard for this.

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Header image courtesy of Sadie Lee. To view her Artist Feature, go here.

Claire McCulley Essay Nailed MagazineClaire McCulley is a 20-year-old feminist, lesbian, and art girl. She creates pieces about love and pain and soul and pride. You can usually find her in the basement of her university performing arts center, playing piano.This is her first time writing for NAILED.

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Poetry Suite by Adrienne Novy https://nailedmagazine.com/poetry/poetry-suite-adrienne-novy/ Tue, 07 Nov 2017 16:11:23 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=poetry&p=16801   LET’S MAKE THIS A GAME   Distract yourself from itching the histamine welts, ………………………………………………………ask your mother to read Junie B. Jones ………………………………………………………to you and the girl who just got her ………………………………………………………tonsils out. Start a round of Simon Says. Epidural Scratch. Simon did not say scratch. ………………………………………………………Play scar hide-and-go-seek. Pediatric Trivia: Dial [This Number] on […]

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LET’S MAKE THIS A GAME

 

Distract yourself from itching the histamine welts,

………………………………………………………ask your mother to read Junie B. Jones
………………………………………………………to you and the girl who just got her
………………………………………………………tonsils out.

Start a round of Simon Says.

Epidural Scratch.

Simon did not say scratch.

………………………………………………………Play scar hide-and-go-seek.

Pediatric Trivia: Dial [This Number] on the hospital room phone,

be the first to correctly answer the riddle,

………………………………………………………pick a prize from the red toy wagon.

…………………………You, the Sick Kid, were so brave today,
…………………………swallowed the whole hospital library,
…………………………called it taking your medicine.

 

 

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LAST BREAKFAST

 

Today is the day you finally get to go home. Your mother serves chocolate chip yogurt as a celebration breakfast. You and your brother bring your bowls into the Ronald McDonald House family room to watch The Brave Little Toaster on the small television. Blankie is paused drifting mid-air as you rush to the bathroom and your stomach unloads progress into the toilet. Your mother gently rubs your upper back and hushes you as you are bent over, crying. The drive back to the hospital is quiet.

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THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL

 

If you lifted the roof off of my childhood bedroom, the flashlight hours spent curled under blankets, reading past bedtime could brighten a house of prayer.

When I was nine, I checked out Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl from my town’s small library.

After coming home, I asked my Jewish mother and my Roman Catholic father which faith I was supposed to practice, which holy being I was meant to pray to.

I did not have a Bat Mitzvah or a Confirmation, but since Anne and I were both door slams of curious girls who loved to write,
searching for god in a library became gospel enough for a child.

In fourth grade, a girl in my class teased me on the playground
told me her great-great-uncle was a Nazi,
said he would have killed my whole family.
I stopped bringing Anne Frank with me to school.

Growing up, I had a crush on a boy from my town’s Jewish center,
but also thought about kissing my friend, Gracie.

I wondered if she tasted like sparkling grape juice, the champagne of a star,
the words from the best book I had ever read.

Before Anne Frank’s diary was published,
her father removed all the entries where
Anne questioned her sexuality,
lifted away arguments with her mother from the final transcript,
claimed he did this out of respect for the dead.

When you are Jewish and queer and you die on every page,
and you die in every book,
you convince yourself that the sky must be only the place you are allowed to live.
I think about how quickly I would have unwritten myself
if my father had found all of my truths.

Anne wrote about how she saw this universe.
She wrote about everything from the fights in the annex,
to journaling her desires and masturbation,
about liking both boys and girls.
She knew that there was good in this world despite all its honest ugly, how we both believed that there must still be kindness in the hearts of people who wanted to set us on fire.

If the unedited version of the diary did not exist,
I would have continued to tear chapters out of my body,
burn all the love letters,
pray the candlelight out of my mouth,
ban the library of me,
bleed the ink back until I am both the unlit match and smoke-choked sky,
until the queer Jewish girl within me becomes a different story,
until there is nothing left to be created or destroyed.

Until I burn from the inside out.

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ODE TO CAITIN STICKELS

 

girl’s got fangs and a bold statement lip!
cat eye keratin sharp! crescent retinas!
ring light as a moon!
don’t you dare declaw this bitch!
these scars call for a celebration!
now more beauty mark than burden!

Caitin, you taught me to look at my malformed shoulder &
decorate it in tulle!
tattoos! say, fuck you! to the photoshop!
let the jewel of bone beg the camera to focus!
my low muscle tone as model material!
no more shying from lingerie or two-piece swimsuits!
amalgamation of present me & my three-year-old self!
with fused teeth, grinning at purple mountain’s dusk!
Cat eye syndrome lunar eclipse!
body willing to love the light!

 

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CAT EYE SYNDROME: MY RETINAS AS A SOLAR ECLIPSE

 

trisomy of Chromosome 22—

…………………………………………………………….a fragmented holy. coloboma halo,
fractal iris,

…………………………felinus pupils;

……….tthe midnight

……………………….slink underneath Jacob’s ladder.

the genetics doctor as a god.

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Header image courtesy of Smith Smith. To view his Artist Feature, go here.

 

Adrienne Novy Poetry Nailed MagazineAdrienne Novy is a teaching artist and student from the Chicago suburbs studying Creative Writing and Education. Her work can be found in FreezeRay Poetry, Harpoon Review, Vagabond City Lit, Voicemail PoemsMaudlin House, and on Button Poetry. She loves My Chemical Romance and wants to meet your dog.

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