dad says that they have to be a boy,
their neck thick like corded rope,
but mom combs their hair every night,
braids in whispers and whimpers of hope.
sometimes they sink to the floor of the ocean,
holding their breath and not asking for help,
they dangle their feet over earth’s open wound,
sing a siren song to an audience of kelp.
they peer down at a sea of stars,
their worries start to shrink—
their shorts bright blue;
the sky lipstick pink.
dad says that they have to be a rope,
their neck thick like a braided boy,
but mom whispers their corded hope,
combs in whimpers of night and joy.
sometimes they sink to earth’s open wound,
holding the floor and not asking for an audience,
they dangle, a siren, over the kelp,
sing for help at breath’s expense.
their worries are a sea of stars,
their shrink a lipsticked peer—
the sky bright blue;
the ocean pink and clear.
the rope says they have to be their dad,
a boy thick like the whimpering night,
but mom combs their neck with joy,
whispers every hope into light.
sometimes they wound at the song’s open,
holding the earth and asking for breath,
they dangle the audience over the floor,
sing to the siren the ocean’s depth.
they shrink their worries down to stars,
they’re peering close at every hue—
their shorts a sea of pink;
their lipstick bright blue.
girl gang gonna do a séance for
everyone we lost in the flood;
wicca bitches we swallow spirits,
spit out teeth and blood.
i see myself in the mirror and
i know i’m looking at you;
you stretch your fingers against the glass
as if you could reach right through.
our bodies make a ouija board,
ribs split and shiver;
something greater than either of us
flows in our skin like a river.
you fall forward to the glass with
your hand outstretched and unfurled;
i reach right through to comfort you
at the beginning of the end of the world.
you said you didn’t want to move to the city/ but you’re sitting on a fire escape and when you FaceTime me/ i don’t hear a single birdcall. i wish you wouldn’t call,/ it makes me remember how much i miss you. catch me in your old backyard/ with my new best friends, you can pretend/ you’re part of the bodies that never begin because they/ never end, and the/ bend of the hills, my god you should see them./ i got your voicemail, you talk a lot about rain for/ someone who’s living in a drought; you don’t need to/ put the buckets out if the/ ceiling’s not leaking…/ i hear your voice even when my/ phone doesn’t ring and when you scream/ it sounds like a zip code—are you doing okay?/ just kidding, i know you’re not. i know you’re suffering;/ must be hard to be a transplant with/ no soil to plant your roots, i wouldn’t know,/ i’m sorry do i sound cruel? did you forget the part where/ i said that i miss you? where i/ leave a pail outside the door in case you come home?/ should’ve known you couldn’t stay here forever./ should’ve known you’d trade/ flight for feathers. still hope one day you’ll/ get your shit together and/ move back west. did you get my text?/ do you still/ think about me when you see/ sparrows in the dust? do you think about/ the night sky? do you/ think about us?
we sport wings/ beneath the clouds;
i look at you/ loud
we bruise where the wings grow,/ we nurse beneath the clouds;
you turn when i look at you;/ i hear my name out loud
we sport bruises where the wings grow,/ we nurse wounds beneath the clouds;
you turn away when i look at you;/ i flinch when i hear my name out loud.
i sent a text to the group chat &
we went out in a fairy circle to
get blitzed on the way that
every cloud was smeared across
the sky & i pointed out to you that
if you look up cloud on the internet
all the results are about computing
& you were like “duh you should just
look up outside” & someone took
a video we were falling all over
each other & in the background
you could hear someone saying
it’s been so long since i’ve seen
you, you got your nails done, you
grew your hair out i looked around
& everyone was just mesmerized
by the look of each other’s mouths
& all i thought was “joy, joy, joy,
joy of being together, joy of touching
and being touched by you” and
i bent my forehead to the ground
and i saw you follow suit.
are these stretch marks on my heart a blessing or a wound?
when you hold her instead i know you know how to wound.
we are echoes of the women we once used to be;
i let you touch me and trap your hands inside my wound.
i won’t let you go; i can see through to the bone;
i will make you kneel at the altar of my wound.
i speak through the wound you mistake for my mouth,
won’t let you forget that you have your own wound.
the eyes look down at us and they silently ask,
what are you now? are you a woman or a wound?
brother stuck in swan-body, buried in the worms;
stretching out to hold his feathers even when they burn.
brother i’m sorry i’ll wear the nettle shirt
i want to be punished i want it to hurt
& isn’t this how womanhood works?
suffering to save a man
sewing until her hands turn blue?
they said she didn’t have a choice
but still asked her to choose.
if you’re silent for six years it’s hard to start talking.
if the tunic sings your name then will you come calling?
will it sting you or will it be ramie?
Evka Whaley-Mayda is a printmaker and visual artist. She earned a BA in Studio Art from UC Davis and a post-graduate degree in Interdisciplinary Printmaking from Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclaw, Poland. She is currently training to be an Expressive Arts therapist and lives in the Bay Area.
Tanya Azari is a poet and essayist who lives, writes, and bikes in Los Angeles. They have been published in Indolent Books, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Words Dance, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. More of their work can be found here.