Saturday 30 June 2018

Proud of my Body

by Kathleen Murphey

“I’m proud of my body,” said the young woman,
sporting attire that one might expect on sex workers
or by women in most music videos today.

She’s a sexualized object on display—
judged by her cleavage and curves—
despite telling her she’s so much more
than an idealized body image.

She’s personality and
strength of character
integrity and smarts.

When you’re dressed like a sex object,
what does that say?
And why should anyone try to see you another way?

“I’m proud of my body,” a woman might say.
But that’s not what people see.
They see a woman who defines herself by sex
and who is sexually available.
She might not mean that,
but that’s what they see.
Just a sex object on display.

“I’m proud of my body”
and “though I look like a ho’
that doesn’t justify rape.”

Nothing justifies rape,
but clothes make a statement
about how we see ourselves
and how we expect to be treated.

Tits and Ass—
that’s all they’ll see
through clothes so tight or scant
there’s nothing left to the imagination;
it’s all just shouting out—
“Tits and Ass, I want sex,
that’s why I am advertising it.”
A sexual object on display.

Those women in music videos
are performing in sexual costumes to sell the music
—sex sells after all.
That’s different than wearing sex kitten clothes in everyday life
—because you’re not performing or playing a role.

Yes, it’s confusing.
But remember those women in music videos and sex worker clothes,
they have staff members, managers, and body guards to make sure
they don’t get groped, or worse,
because of those clothes.

Your everyday young woman in sex worker clothes—
she doesn’t have those protections
and she’s not playing a role to sell music.
So what’s she selling—except herself—
Sex object on display—
putting her herself in harm’s way
in a culture sending so many mixed messages
she can’t see it that way.

Didn’t the APA say to stop sexualizing girls years ago?
And yet we haven’t—
Padded bra tops for toddlers and thongs for girls and women.
Slutwear is everywhere!
Bare legs, short skirts, cleavage, cut outs.
Sex objects on display
When will it stop?

It’s even hard to shop today,
for something that doesn’t make you look
like a sex object on display.

Be proud of your body!
Be so proud, you won’t be reduced to
a sexualized self.
Be more than a sex object on display.

* * * * *

Kathleen Murphey is an associate professor of English at Community College of Philadelphia. Recently, she has been writing fiction (both short stories and poetry) on women’s and social justice issues. To learn more about her work, see

Friday 29 June 2018

creative process

by Tamara K. Walker

Fluid fragments turn over each other continuously;
            melting goldfish becoming their own pond,
                        the ruthless cycle of amber motif,
                                    the continuous waterwheel of nature/nurture/natural  nourishment.
                                                or a metaphor for molecular motion.  Diffusion equilibrium.
She takes each "one" up, loves and discards them, discards them conservationally.
        ;                                       out of a pumice Pez dispenser.
They don't matter, now.  To be inside the mind of a process, to grasp unflailingly
the ecstasy of sudden sunlight shed
starkly, blindingly on humble geometries, to shatter violently
the simple structure of crystalline contentment
with the fragrant puce sledgehammer
of treasured ataxia
is to stand upon the scattered

sharp as nanowire,
 glistening intensity
meaning?  meaning, meaning, meaning…
mourning?  morning, mourning, morning…

* * * * *

Bio: Tamara K. Walker resides in Colorado and primarily writes short fiction of unusual varieties, as well as poetry often in originally East Asian forms adapted into English—such as tanka and sijo—in addition to ghazals and other forms with a dystopian sensibility. One of her short stories, "Camisole" (The Conium Review, Vol. 4) was a 2015 Pushcart Prize nominee. Her first chapbook, Fabric Heart, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Her fiction has appeared in The Cafe Irreal, A cappella Zoo, The Conium Review and Melusine, among others. Her poems have been published in Lavender Review, indefinite space, The Ghazal Page, Eastern Structures, LYNX, Ribbons, Star*Line, Atlas PoeticaMoonbathing and various other journals.  She may be found online at

Thursday 28 June 2018

by Judith Michaels Safford

Dad would to say, when he wanted to refuse my invitation, “Your mom isn’t up to going anywhere today.” Mom would say, “So sorry, but we have other plans,” quickly making other plans so it wouldn’t be a lie. She lacked truth telling tools and had no voice of her own. She complained about dad never being home and, then, took it all back and talked about him working two jobs to support the family. We lived in a housing project. Mom sewed most of our clothes; dad had suits from Gilbert’s Men's clothing store and Florsheim shoes, looking the part of a successful salesman. Mom could make a meal for seven out of one small jar of dried beef, flour, water and bread. Standing up for herself or us was not in her tool box. Dad was god and the rest of us were ducklings walking chronologically behind, sitting in the first pew at Sunday Mass.
That was then. This is me now, living out ancestry residue.
Me, learning to say, ‘NO.”
Smothered! Wanting to guard my boundaries. Wanting to find some boundaries, any boundaries.
Stirred by Gabor Maté’s book, “When the body says NO,” I sit and think in silence. I act standoffish. Don’t touch me as I grapple to find myself. My mood is triggered by a revelation and the piercing sound of ripping. The thin sticky veil covering my vision resists removal. The very word authenticity makes me squirm and shreds a multitude of stories.
I wear a smile all the while the emotional vampire drains me empty. I smile a yes and lean in with empathizing ears. The character in this story showers me with overbearing hugs, kisses on the mouth, compliments and gifts. Choking, smothering, I want to be set free of her. I had no clue it was me wanting to be set free from my smiling lie. Suddenly, I’m blackballed, no longer spoken to, invitations canceled and presence unacknowledged. Me, the loving, compassionate friend. Me, the one who listened, nodded and smiled. How could she? Part of me rejoices with relief, and the other part of me pastes together another victim story, like Mother did. My soft, kind, listening energy was false in this relationship. It totally eluded me and it wasn’t the first time. Many years of yes-smiling lies, thinking it was genuine. Being the “good girl” is what truly left me dry.

Nine years after being dropped, my once old friend had both breasts removed. Her new friends fell at her feet. Being the voluntary Librarian that Saturday before her surgery, I checked out her stack of movies and was able to look her in the eyes and wish her well. With each encounter at the library and her every little California hug and how are you, I was the dead fish, arms by my side with no response. I couldn’t even squeeze out, “And how are you?” Unable to witness my own facial expressions, I notice her baldness changing to fuzz and now her curly gray.
Today, clarity sat me straight up in bed, as if a fire alarm had stung my ears. My part in the relationship flashes before my eyes like a hand cranked black and white movie. My smiling lie had reached a tipping point when she acted out the final good-bye. I watch my story collapse, disintegrating into baby bird feathers flying away with the April cold-front winds swirling in the skies heading for the fire of the stars. Longing for authenticity to trickle into the beating of my heart, I begin my truth telling here with you.
Building daily healthy fences, bathed in gratitude, laced with humility,
I’m learning to say, “NO and/or YES,” within truth’s boundaries.

* * * * * 
In 2006, Judith Michaels Safford discovered a radio program on writing poetry. She followed the prompts and mustered up the courage to press the send button. She was invited to read and a door was open that had not previously existed. She finds that her emotions express more easily through poetry. Judith self-published her memoir in 2009. Don’t Sell Your Soul, Memoir of a Guru Junkie. Encouraged by a published poet-friend, she embarked on self-publishing a book of prayer poems. Joyful Surrender, A pilgrimage. Judith continues to practice a 23-year career as a licensed massage therapist. Today her home is Glenwood, New Mexico, where artists of many kind reside. Touching others with hands and poems brings a tremendous satisfaction of purpose to her life.

Wednesday 27 June 2018

The twenty-fifth Moon Prize on this Strawberry Full Moon (and, yes, out West the full moon date is the 27th—back East you'll have to wait till the 28th) goes Alexis Rhone Fancher's poem "Keep Walking" (On Las Palmas Ave., Approaching Hollywood Blvd., I Hear A Scream). This unforgettable poem is for all of us who, in this devastating world, have ever had occasion to walk away from a scene of bullies having their way in the face of our own pain and fear and helplessness.

Keep Walking” (On Las Palmas Ave., Approaching Hollywood Blvd., I Hear A Scream)

by Alexis Rhone Fancher

In the spill of the porch lamp the girl looks fourteen, 
cowering in the courtyard of this windy night, 
cheap stilettos stemming her pale legs up into tiny shorts.

Two men the size of refrigerators 
slap her face like shes meat that needs 
tenderizing. One stands behind her, pins her arms;
the other brute yells in her face:
“You will fuck who I say when I say!”
When he hauls off to smack her again I look away.

In Hollywood the streets talk trash, hold murder
in their asphalt, blood in the potholes,
used hypodermics float in the gutters, rats
dance on the lawns.

The girl lurches, stumbles in those 5-inch heels,
the only thing separating her from the ground. 

The two men toss her back and forth 
like a football. Her eyes catch mine.
When her pimp sees me he hollers in my face. 
"Keep Walking!

Im late. My dealer is impatient.
I do what Im told.

High on pot. Tequila. Fear.
I head into the neon of Hollywood Blvd.,
keep walking till I can’t hear her screams.

* * * * *

 "'Keep Walking' (On Las Palmas Ave., Approaching Hollywood Blvd., I Hear A Scream)" is from Alexis Rhone Fancher's 2018 chapbook Junkie Wife and was first published in Toad.

Alexis Rhone Fancher is the author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and other 
heart stab poems, (2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), Enter Here (2017), and
Junkie Wife, (2018). She is published in Best American Poetry 2016, Rattle, Hobart, Pirene’s 
Fountain, The American Journal of Poetry, Plume, Nashville Review, Diode, Glass, Tinderbox, 
Verse Daily, and elsewhere. Her photos are published worldwide, including River Styx, and the 
covers of Witness, Heyday, The Chiron Review, and Nerve Cowboy. A multiple Pushcart Prize 
and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. She lives in Los 

Tuesday 26 June 2018

portrait of a Missouri woman

by Nixi Schroeder

she is the cloud bank;
she whispers imposition
from the curve of her neck, the
sigh of her shoulder, the
sycamore-blues of her grass-eaten knee. she is
amber, clotted against autumn’s pavement, a
mite, crawling smallishly in her plastic beads and worn-through jeans
and she matches her dresses to her bruises
for she (will not) tolerate ugly things.

and she is a horizon;
she is smudged rain;
she is rusted bridges, her legs
the baked silt brown of river clay
every inch as powdered, as brittle,
slowly (secretly)
she is cracking from dryness

each night, her sovereign lips
whisper skyward,
poaching soft kisses
from a whisky-cask

and she dreams
she is breathing

* * * * *

Nixi Schroeder is a teaching assistant and MA student of English at Truman State University. Her work has been featured by The Fem, Red Dashboard Press, Eyedrum Periodically, Sweet 16's not AR 15's, The Monitor, Everyday Poets, and Windfall Magazine, among other publications. She is also a former poetry reader for the Chariton Review.

Monday 25 June 2018

Nice and New and Smart (a prayer for reprieve)

by Nixi Schroeder

Our Father/ who art
            all strength/
                        and size, i am/

            small/ i am
                        bird/ i am
            peeled and boneless
hallowed be thy/ fingernails/
            split ends/
            blisters/ God give me

            fingernails, give
                        calluses/ i need

to crack
            open/ to

Lord/ i am
            not/ i am destringed/
                        i am/ so tired

give us this day/ Lord
            please give this one day

give us no:
wars/ droughts/ plagues/ shootings/ extinctions/ exterminations/ child graves 

give us whole buildings/ Our Lord of uncrushed glass, give us/
            full stomachs/ give/
                        honeybees, Lord/ of fallout/bless
            us the smallest/ God/
                        at least the bees/ at least
            chrysanthemums, God of foot soles/ of grey water, at least/
this day/ Lord God/ just
            one day

no heaviness, no/
            vein-ache, no/

Please God, i am tired.

i am tired and
so small.

* * * * *

Nixi Schroeder is a teaching assistant and MA student of English at Truman State University. Her work has been featured by The Fem, Red Dashboard Press, Eyedrum Periodically, Sweet 16's not AR 15's, The Monitor, Everyday Poets, and Windfall Magazine, among other publications. She is also a former poetry reader for the Chariton Review.

Sunday 24 June 2018


by Betsy Mars

Seeking solace in ice cream, cream cake,
calorie counting, maintaining a semblance of control,
pounds falling off like ill-fitting jeans.
The anorexic spell is broken, and another cycle begins:
binge and purge: indulgence without consequences
I think - until my acid-washed tonsils rebel and I’m 19
in the pediatric ward, recovering with Jello
and ice cream (no less) and syrup sweet codeine
to lessen the pain.

Discharged, exercise replaces bulimia -
another attempt to control
my body, my image - seeking perfection -
always striving to be my mother, my brother, another.
Rigid allegiance to my self-imposed
regime: a dictator without discretion.

My 20s and 30s spent running away from myself
into music and television, the noise a distraction
from the void my dreams left when puberty arrived.
Finding comfort in fantasy and adrenaline,
in other people’s struggles, followed by
withdrawals from Downton Abbey,
the end of basketball season, the last episode of Survivor.

Seeking my next fix, pink elephants push into the room,
filling its empty space, rearing on heavy hindquarters,
their pleather skin breaking out in a cold sweat of withdrawal.
Pain and change are a nicotine patch
on my spirit, my spirit emptied, lost.
Bone-shaking delirium, tremors
against the open places, seeking an edge,

seeking a boundary, a safe place, strait-jacketed.
Bouncing from one extreme to the other,
not knowing or wanting any middle ground.
Swaddled, disarmed and alarmed, I move
on to the next, high or low:
only stimulus or sleep can soothe,
no solace in purgatory, anything to avoid
confronting myself.

* * * * *

Perdition was first published in Snorted the Moon & Doused the Sun: An Anthology of Addiction Poetry, edited by Deann Meeks Brown and Raundi Moore-Kondo (For the Love of Words Press, copyright 2017).

Betsy Mars is a southern California poet who is in a perpetual battle with change – finally coming to some kind of a truce, and at times even love and acceptance. She is an educator, mother, animal lover, and over-excited traveler. Her poetry has been published in a number of places, both online and in print, most recently in Sheila-Na-Gig, The Ekphrastic Review, and Red Wolf Journal. Writing has given her a means to explore her preoccupation with mortality and her evolving sense of self.