We are excited to introduce The Prism Pages, a literary project that we have been enthusiastically planning for some time now, which features original works of poetry and prose from up-and-coming LGBTQ writers in our community. Here is the first installment, which debuted in our March/April 2022 issue.
BY: OLIVIA ROMAN
Of riverside redbud trees bursting into bloom, like the skin of
The men who exploded onstage like supernovas, moved quietly
Away to the coast for treatment, reprisal of a viral nightmare
Far from mind, but there came a time
When we had to face our blues, singing
Of late nights, of the ebb and flow of Beale’s crowds caught in neon lights, of
Our old world slipping away, cherry smoke curling to the stars through lips
Now unseen, mask stretched over a face growing lean, no groceries to
Clean because store’s shelves are bare, clock into work
But nobody’s there.
Prayer in sunlight, waiting for a ride.
BY: MOTH MOTH MOTH
In jewel-toned sunset light
This is my
Showing the universe
Earning my chance
To go to heart station
And do my dance.
Love Letters to My Heroes
BY: KRISTEN GRACE
When they kicked you out of church for being gay,
you went to the woods and into the sacred house of written words
and created your own church. Later, you invited all of us to go with you.
You never asked us to prove ourselves, or to be good-
only to be attentive to the beauty in the world
that was ready and waiting to heal our wounds.
Were you ever happier than when you were in the arms of women?
You taught us that our lives could be one gorgeous, flaming
fuck you to anyone who chose to misunderstand our holy work.
We write ourselves love poems, as you taught us. We love our eyebrows, our selfies,
and each other. We cut off our long hair
in grief and celebration, the way you did. Like you, we are determined
to create beauty from pain, bleeding light from every one of our wounds.
You couldn’t find the Black women you knew in museums.
There were domestic workers, wives, slaves, but not the women you knew.
You believed, correctly, we needed to see ourselves in museums.
You created images of them in their Power and beauty, standing alone and strong.
Your subjects were nuanced. You painted Michelle Obama, and no one else
could have captured all her grace, strength, and power. You challenged
the beauty standards and changed the game for us all.
My sister’s teenage child, non-binary, they/them. My reluctant teacher.
You have gently taught me how addicted I am to the lens of gender.
You have inspired me with your courage and wit. I love that your art and stories
are peopled with characters more than human, who are not defined by gender,
but by more interesting characteristics. They band together as a family,
because they chose to care about one another. When we are very lucky,
this happens in the real world, too.
The Booth: A Guided Meditation
BY: ZACK ORSBORN
Find a comfortable place to rest. Take a deep breath in, hold for four seconds, and exhale for seven seconds. Take a deep breath in, hold for five seconds, and exhale for six seconds. Take a deep breath in, tense all of your body for four seconds, and let out an exhale while letting the tension evaporate from your mind. Now, close your eyes and settle in.
You are in your room, neat and white, bed made, in front of your dance mirror, as your mother calls it. You are seated on the hot, beige carpet, stretching your thighs, your calves. Lean into the cold pain of the stretch. Your fingers begin to sweat as you wrap them around your bare and scabbed feet. You notice a new blister forming on the arch of your foot and think about yesterday’s rehearsal. You found it grueling and satisfying. You wished for a studio of your own.
You place your arms behind your head and reach down your back. The knot in your neck pinches, screams. Lean into this screaming for eight seconds.
Choreography taps in your mind’s floor. You feel confident you have managed to create something entirely novel, but your stomach gurgles with nerves. You will have to show your mother, who never found the art to be as enthralling as you did. Repeat to yourself: May I be light. May I step in all the right places. May I not fall. May I be beautiful.
You crack your neck. It sounds like a piano key, no wire to tap, pressed hard. Focus on this sound for five seconds. Really pay attention to the texture of the echoes.
You stand, correct your posture, and exit your room. The sound of television chatter finds you in the hall, its walls inundated with portraits of people you haven’t seen since you were a small child. It is impossible to focus on their faces. You wonder how many cousins you haven’t met. You catch your distraction, continue down the hall. The blister on your foot throbs. Pay attention to the throb. Lean in to the throb.
Your mother is in the living room, reclined in a gray La-Z-Boy, socked-feet resting in the supported air. Your presence does not move her line of sight to you. You tell her you’re ready. You have a new dance to show her. Your mother pauses her program and offers a tight-lipped smile to feign interest. Think of the last time you feigned interest. Why?
She asks if there will be music, and as usual, you tell her there is no music, and she sighs. She thought there’d be music this time. Let the disappointment hug you for ten seconds. Breathe in for five seconds, hold it in your chest for two seconds, and exhale for seven seconds. You straighten your back, flex your fingers, toes, abdomen.
You begin your new piece you’ve been calling The Booth. You place yourself in that boxed room, a closet with a camera, and you situate your senses, imagining you’re actually there. Your mother’s mouth is set in a brusque line. She does not react to your measured brio of tight, hammering arms, your baby steps in circles, the way you’ve trained your neck, your head. Your eyes are trained straight ahead, straight at the imagined camera. Your mother is the camera.
There is the sound of an urgent click. The prickly sensation of pain bites in your ankle, and through this wave of pain, you realize you’ve stepped wrong. Your ankle turns. Actualize this specific type of pain for thirty seconds. You fall to the ground. Your mother presses play, and the tin-eared chatter resumes. Hone in on this chatter for four seconds.
You writhe on the carpet. You try to stand, but you can’t. It hurts too much. You ask your mother to help, pulling on her nightgown, but it’s as if you are a ghost. She does not feel your tugs. She does not hear you begin to cry and repeat her name.
She calls her two friends, reminding them to bring the liquor before they come for their singing competition show watch party. The pain from your ankle spreads through to, what seems like, your marrow. It travels up the leg. It travels through your guts, into your stomach. It spreads to the chest, up to the neck, and settles into your mind. You recall this feeling. You had the same one last summer when you broke from reality.
Luxuriate in the splitting headache for five seconds.
Her friends come over. They step over your sobbing body. The pain thickens, second by second, and they can’t hear your gasps for relief.
You start to crawl. Cat hair, dead skin, and soil muddy your knees. Your wet hands slip on the linoleum in the kitchen, on the way to the back door, and your chin collides with the stained tiles. You feel blood pool in your mouth. Taste the blood for thirty seconds. Resettle your posture. Breathe in for three seconds, hold it for ten, and with a big gust of a sigh, release the air.
Reaching for the door handle as you leave, you look back at your mother and her friends. They are singing along with a contestant.
The Booth isn’t that far, so you crawl the one-and-a-half miles, spitting out the globs of blood on the sidewalk. You dodge glass. You maneuver this way and that way to let the stream of passersby move by you. You try to search for their eyes, but nobody is looking down. Your hands, open palmed, land in a pile of dog shit. Relax in the texture of the shit. Recall its smell for fifteen seconds.
You crawl through the sliding doors of the content farm. The rush of cool air startles you and reminds you of your injured ankle. You cry out again, but the content performers are behind the doors of their Booths. Settle into the sound of their muffles.
Inch by inch, you make your way down the dim hallway, watching the numbers on the gold plaques, glued to the doors, rise as you seek the room numbered 23. Visualize this number. Anchor the feeling of the number in your stomach. Forget about the slithering trail of blood you made to get here.
You don’t have your access card, so with your left leg and foot, you begin to kick in the door. You kick and kick and kick. Imagine the warbling voice of your mother’s friends as your foot breaks through the cheap wood. The golden plaque falls and cuts into your right ear. You imagine, as this new stream of blood enters your ear, that this is what it would sound like to be in the womb. Picture yourself in this womb for one minute. If your mind drifts, remember to label the distraction as ‘thinking.’
You reach into the hole you made, and your fingers find the unlock button on the Booth’s inside panel. You enter the Booth, letting the neon purple of the blacklight wash over you. With support from the single metal chair in the center of the Booth, you are able to stand, putting all of your weight on your left leg. You wipe your bloody ear and smear it on your leotard.
The Booth’s camera glares at you. You give the command to open your Booth to viewers, and you begin to dance, on one leg, better than you’ve ever performed the piece before. You forgot to take of your leotard, so you stop your dance and undress, accidentally rolling on your throbbing ankle.
Remember this painful nudity. Do not stop dancing.
When you complete your performance, raw and ragged, you notice the absence of the camera’s winking green light. It did not hear your command. Again, you danced for no one. You put on your leotard and crawl back home.
Sink into this absence for one whole minute.
You arrive home. The friends are gone, and you find your mother dancing—neck stiff, head straight, eyes locked on you, moving her feet in tiny circles, thrashing her arms.
There is no music this time, either.
The Prism Pages is a new literary section in the magazine where original works of poetry and fiction from the community will be showcased. As a publishing company, we are committed to saving space for up-and-coming LGBTQ+ writers. Interested in submitting something? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.