I am you you are me
One time or another we’ve all needed help
If you deny it you’re fooling yourself
Depression, anxiety take root in us all
and hide us from others behind a cruel wall
Bipolar disorder or eating afflictions
some are genetic, some are addictions
Some need more help, some need a nudge
In either case, yours not to judge
God put us here to look after each other
would you turn away if you had your ‘druthers?
(Joseph Tradii won numerous creative writing awards for his work in advertising before turning to poetry. He has taught writing at Central Washington University and his poetry has appeared in Hevria Magazine. His interests also include classic Hollywood cinema and crawling old, independent bookstores.)
don’t judge me on my numbers, my
flawed mathematics of
don’t believe what they say about me –
the suppression, the serenity, the endlessness
of my symphony
remember I was a storm in a teacup
just never quite mastering the language
of everyone else’s revolution
don’t preserve my photographs –
reluctant spectres, frozen smiles, submission
don’t walk in my footsteps –
most of them were wonderfully quiet
left no impressions except
don’t ask my friends my contemporaries who I was -
they’ll only give you themselves
don’t ask my lovers for my secrets
I left those knots tied figure-eight, they’ll
take a lifetime to untangle, they’ll never pull free
don’t believe whatever bullshit gets etched into my gravestone –
I wrote the epitaph aged 19, I was high and
I told them I wanted to be cremated
look for the stains I never meant you to find –
blood-ghosted tissues in the wastepaper bin
chalky handprints on the fine leather couch
toothpaste spat at the empty mirror
look for the traced outlines –
the cats who thought I was a crazy one of them
the ones I loved so badly I stammered them out of the light
the coffee spilt on the carpet
look for the ghosts
or for god’s sake find yourself a (less haunted)
(Anna Rivers is a UK-based, Belgian-raised PhD student at the University of Warwick, where her research focuses on the interrelationship of the philosophy of sound and rhythm with ghosts and hauntings.)
Since April 1976
I’ve lived in a Dali painting--
surrealism in reality.
Or maybe Escher,
impossible never-ending stairways,
water that flows
both downhill and up,
life that goes on
but is viewed skewed.
My world became a child’s drawing.
a place that wasn’t real.
Dreams that had been painted in color,
ready to be placed
on the walls of my life,
suddenly, were black and white
of my future.
Since April 1976,
insecurity has spiked
the water I sip all day.
Fear hides in my mind,
in the corner,
where it can always find me.
(Margaret Krusinga was diagnosed with MS in 1976. She conducts a small writing group and was a finalist for the Ritzenheim Poetry Award. She lives on sixty acres near Lansing, Michigan, USA, where she and her husband raise chickens. She pens poetry leaning toward nature and the meaning of life.)
I won’t end with Rage.
I love a man I know could go blind--
And not in twenty-five years,
And not in a slow fade,
But quickly the color of the world gone dark
In his jade eyes. One joy in it is
He can always remember my outline
by tracing it. I know I’ll be resentful one day
Leading him through the apartment,
“Here is that chair again. On your left,”
I’ll snap. I’m left with my rage at nothing.
But I won’t end there. I can see enough for us both.
(Mike Zimmerman is a writer of short stories and poetry, as well as a middle school Writing teacher in East Brooklyn. His previous work has been published in Cutbank, A & U Magazine, The Painted Bride, Wilde Magazine, Caravel, Aji, Arkana, 8 West Press, Steam Ticket, Typehouse Literary Magazine, and Zingara Poetry Review, and various anthologies. He is the 2015 recipient of the Oscar Wilde Award from Gival Press and a finalist for the Hewitt Award in 2016. In 2018, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for his story “Doppelganger” in Two Cities Review. Mike lives in Brooklyn with his husband and their cat. Learn more @mazaffect.)
I See You
There's this thing I do, I bite my lips and pick the skin off my feet and one day a friend told me those were symptoms of anxiety.
I had tightness in my chest and felt like I couldn't breathe so I went to the doctor and they didn't help me but they told me it could be anxiety.
I backed out of three job interviews and told myself that the inner voice I was listening to was God. But. Maybe. It was actually anxiety.
I felt sick to my stomach and threw up the whole time I was pregnant and I'm pretty sure it wasn’t all in my head, but do you think it had anything to do with anxiety?
I screamed at my two year old for acting like a two year old and yelled at my husband for listening to me when I asked him to buy me fudge brownies and flew into full body-shaking rage episodes when my baby woke up early from his nap and then I finally thought maybe,
It was time to take a look at this thing called anxiety.
I hyperventilated over taking a pill and asked “how will I know if it's helping” and “what is it supposed to be like” and “what if it's wrong” and “how long before I know” and “is this normal or is this the medication or is it...you know... the anxiety?”
I drove all across the freeways of Las Vegas and remembered panicking on small town Idaho roads and realized how much of my life had been affected by this thing I hadn't even known how to name
we drive together or take walks and have talks or listen to Taylor Swift or play solitaire at 2AM or meditate or stretch or try to just breathe together or ruminate over a thousand questions or watch a comfort show and eat fudge brownies or even sometimes bite my lips and pick the skin on my feet, saying
"Oh, hey anxiety,
I see you".
(Tia Wray has a BA in English and a MA in health psychology. She turned to poetry as a way to process trauma therapy, and her themes have expanded into topics related to healing, grief, connection, and nature. In addition to being a writer, she is a mother and a meditator. She currently lives in Västerås, Sweden.)
I'm Mars and You Are Venus
Abandoned and barren,
I hide myself under miles of blood red sands,
I'm a cold, ancient, and mysterious existence,
I zoom thorough the void of blackness,
All alone, all unlovable, and presumably dead,
My only company,
Are two shards of my broken heart,
Orbiting me silently.
You are Venus,
You are a world of rage and fire,
you have scorching oceans of lava,
I hear volcanoes rip and tear your world,
You hide below your impenetrable miles of toxic clouds,
Powerful gusts of winds envelop your surface,
Your protection against this brutal existence,
Nothing will ever get in or out,
I get it, I see it crystal clear, and I hear you,
You don't trust anyone or anything.
I'm Mars and you are Venus,
You are too hot to touch,
I'm too frigid and rigid for love,
But I do know,
We have been both brutally betrayed,
You and I shed tears and screeched in agony.
For millions and millions of years,
It is no wonder,
You are a world of fire and ire,
And I'm a realm of emptiness and coldness.
I'm Mars and you are Venus,
But do know that I'm soothed,
When once in a couple of years our orbits meet,
I know I can never touch you,
And you will never love me,
But I will always adore you from the distance,
I'm terrified of the thought of not getting a glimpse of you,
I'm always tortured to watch you fly away from me,
I'm Mars, a world of scars and tears.
(David Grigorian was born deaf in Armenia and got his first hearing aids at the age of eleven. David has been to a lot of places such as Ukraine, Black sea, Japan, and settled in USA, Colorado. He began to experiment with poetry in his teenage years as he experienced first love, first best friend, and first heart break. With poetry David explored and tried to understand life. He had attended and graduated Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. His writings have been published in local newsletters and a magazine. David's life dream was to be a published author and a poet.)
shadows of trees,
crests of waves,
not a fragmented whole
but the parts itself.
i must go down to the ocean and
watch the waves,
a performance of space.
let water fill--
i mean, i guess, i tried,
maybe in some ways,
to find a space within a space.
as if it could cleanse
all that is broken.
drown oneself in a fixed place.
i will never--
i can’t seem to control,
the waves do not,
even this poem is--
(Wendy Garnier is a psychologist, poet, and performer based in the seaside town of Aarhus, Denmark. Her work is published in Expanded Field Journal, Defenestration Magazine, and the anthology At the River’s Mouth, among others. Please visit her website at www.wendygarnier.com.)
The Perfectionism Police
Perfectionist. Obsessive. Nit-picking. Workaholic. Scared of failure.
These traits make me feel sick.
They remind me of bingeing: bingeing on life.
Wanting to get everything done, in a very sick sort of way.
In an: “I’m-out-of-control-need-to-keep-going-can’t-take-a-break-I-deserve-to-suffer-sort of way.”
Perfectionism is so elusive.
People think it’s good – but they don’t understand how perverted it is.
It is a desire for power that strips you of all power.
It is a dream – but it’s actually a nightmare,
Because you don’t get to wake up before you fall.
Perfectionism is so dysfunctional.
You think you are getting stronger – but you are actually losing strength.
You have an assignment to finish.
But you don’t get to choose your pace.
The Perfectionism Police choose it for you.
These minions in your head.
They call the shots.
You are forced to stay up all night.
They make you finish this assignment at knifepoint.
No breaks. No food. Not even water!
You are SO thirsty – absolutely parched.
You are completely empty. Hollow.
There is NOTHING left to lose.
You sneak some water from the tap in the bathroom.
But then they catch you!
They turn the lights on.
“What are you doing,” they ask.
“I’m so sorry, I just had to,” you respond.
The sobs are rising in your throat.
You know you are in big trouble.
Now you are drowning.
They make you drink until you are completely distended.
The pain is insurmountable.
Then you rupture.
They are your demise: The Perfectionism Police.
(Athena Milios is a Greek-Canadian psychiatric researcher and writer based in Nova Scotia, Canada. She holds an undergraduate Degree in Medical Science and a Master’s in Psychiatry Research, both from Dalhousie University. Athena has been living with mental illness since the age of fifteen. She strongly advocates for mental health in her community. She is the author of several psychiatric publications as well as some creative writing pieces, including poetry and short stories.)
Broken but easily fixed
Again, you have broken and I watch
you pale with pain
as nurses in comic-book scrubs press forward
with cannulas and soothing words to bind you whole
At seven, there was no slow smiling morphine
to ease injury into unforgetting, just bright white
cries rending silent air, playground birds startled
as you were scooped from the earth.
Now, the grainy film shows a violent shift a
rupture of the natural order an
earthquake of bone that
swells your wrist
your long toes touch the bed’s end and
your voice dives deep as you tell the story and
the nurses, not much older, roll their eyes
and shake their chuckling heads
They check your name and again
and five times more; each time you thank them
smiling blearily through night’s quiet.
I think of the wounds yet to scar your body and
heart and sit, at ease, knowing that this
simple brokenness can be easily fixed.
(Clare Roche is a Sydney based writer. Her poetry can be found in Dwell Time (UK), Leopardskins and Lime (Berlin), Uppagus (US), and HOOT (US, forthcoming). Her creative non-fiction was shortlisted for the national Nillumbik Prize for Contemporary Writing (2020).)
Purple clouds spin like pinwheels
I shoot my crimson arrow
droplets burst my soul falls with them
still my ego is drenched with sorrow.
I shoot my crimson arrow
I am high as that child’s kite
still my ego is drenched with sorrow
my sigh of relief with every beat, my heart.
I am high as that child’s kite
my reflection is muddled in that puddle
my sigh of relief with every beat, my heart
a tiger butterfly cries.
My reflection is muddled in that puddle
droplets burst my soul falls with them
a tiger butterfly cries
purple clouds spin like pinwheels.
At dusk the demons
consume the hues
of pink, orange, and red
that streak the
horizon like messy
but what remains on the
corner of their mouths
is the color red
The pollen coats
but with a
(Sophia Falco is the author of: The Immortal Sunflower (UnCollected Press, 2019), a winner of The Raw Art Review Poetry Chapbook Contest. Falco graduated magna cum laude from the UCSC. Her poems have appeared in The Poetry Matters Project, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Indolent Books, Wingless Dreamer, among other journals.)
The Beautiful Space-