Publisher, East Jasmine Review
by Sara Marchant
I am sitting on the bumper of my husband’s truck, waiting for him to finish his post-lunch cigarette and let me in the vehicle, when a luxury SUV stops next to me and an older Japanese lady puts her head out the open window and hails me. She hails me by name. It is summertime in Southern California and I am in an asphalt scented parking lot, choking on second hand smoke, overly full of turkey burger– surely I’m hallucinating this stranger calling my name.
“Sara!” She calls again, despite being two feet away from me. “Isn’t that you?”
“Yes,” I say, looking around. I am the only person, except for my husband who has retreated further under the shade of a straggly tree to avoid detection, who she could possibly be addressing.
“You are Sara, right?” She has noticed my confusion.
I admit that I am. My husband, using my distraction to take advantage, lights another cigarette. “Do I know you?” I finally ask.
It is entirely possible that I do know her. Or did know her prior to 2003 when I suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car crash. This has happened before. A woman came up to me in public and chatted, naming several friends we had in common. I played along, not wanting to let on that my faulty brain had erased her from my memory. A phone call later that day to one of the friends mentioned revealed that while not close, this erased woman had been a friend. We attended events together, went dancing. She had told me about her abortion, our mutual friend reminded me, and I cried with her. I cannot remember her at all.
“Yes! Sara!” This lady exclaims. “We used to be next door neighbors in Alameda. Alameda, California? You and your husband, Steven?”
I take a breath, relieved. I don’t even know where Alameda is, let alone recall having lived there. “Oh, sorry,” I say brightly. “My name is Sara, but that’s the only husband I’ve ever had.” I point and my husband (not named Steven) salutes her with a head nod and a wave from the hand holding his cigarette.
She does a double take and then looks extremely doubtful. “Oh,” she says as if that means something. “Oh, I am sorry.” She looks at my husband again, then back at me. She looks like she’s about to say more, but instead drives away.
“That was weird,” I say as my husband throws down his unfinished cigarette and finally lets me into his truck.
“She didn’t believe you,” he tells me. “She thinks you are the same Sara who lived next door to her and you’ve never told me about your other husband, Steven.” He is driving as he says this, calm, but still smiling. My shock pleases him.
“I have to call my mom,” I say, and do so.
“That’s ridiculous,” my mom replies when I ask her if I’ve forgotten another husband, another marriage, an entirely different life in an unknown town. “Of course you’ve never been married before, and where is Alameda, anyway?”
Her annoyance is so everyday normal I am relieved, and get off the phone. My husband doesn’t know how my stomach tightens each time a forgotten person re-enters my life, how my heart seems to gush with liquid for a shattering moment, and saliva fills my mouth in panic.
Have you ever lost your purse or misplaced your car keys in public? For a few heartbeats your world stops– and then starts again when you remember the purse is hooked on the back of the restaurant chair or your keys are in your other pocket. Imagine your purse is your brain, your car keys are chunks of your life. Pieces of me are gone and, as far as I know, they aren’t coming back.
It is a hot, sweaty day but I had goose bumps as I questioned whether there had been an entire life forgotten. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t the Sara who had been married to Steven and lived next door to that nice Japanese lady in Alameda, California. But it could have been.
I could have another life somewhere in Alameda with my husband Steven. Perhaps we have two and a half children and a lakeside cabin we visit on weekends and hobbies we enjoy together. Maybe Steven is a rich orphan and I am an only child and we take our beautiful, healthy children out on our speed boat every chance we get. But how could anyone forget a life like that?
In the years to come, Steven, my ‘other husband,’ will become a third presence in my marriage. My husband will use him as a scapegoat. Mud tracked into the clean house? That was Steven. Who ate an entire chicken meant to feed the guests at dinner? Obviously, Steven.
I use Steven, my imaginary husband, as a measure against my real husband. Steven always called when he was going to be late. I never had to ask Steven to take out the trash, he just did it. Steven’s parents were nicely dead. Steven didn’t have two ex-wives running around town. Steven didn’t have three grown children from a previous marriage. Steven had healthy sperm.
We are very careful to never mention Steven around my mother. She finds Steven creepy.
received her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts from The University of California, Riverside– Palm Desert. Her work has been published by The Manifest-Station, Every Writer’s Resource, Full Grown People, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and The Coachella Review. Her work is forthcoming in the anthology All the Women in my Family Sing. She is the prose editor for the literary magazine Writers Resist.
by Trista Hurley-Waxali
I stop before I reach our hotel to admire a window display. I remember running into this men’s boutique by my husband’s request, to find a tie for a new hire for a dinner meeting. I met them in the lobby with the dark brown silk tie and folded it for the new hire in front of a hallway mirror. My husband watched as I glowed with pride. The gesture was always something I envisioned doing with our son, if he never grew wings.
I blink away the memory and keep walking, here is not about the once past but rather the present meetings to future gains. That’s what we promised each other when we booked this trip. We made a promise to work on ways to communicate and to reconnect to what we had at one time. We want a new pair of us, a pair that we can both be proud of.
“Hey babe, I was just thinking of you.” I say into the phone as it vibrates in my jacket pocket, picking up on my headphones.
“Are you at the room?”
“No, just walking back now, have some goodies for tonight.”
“Yeah about tonight…”
“Are you going to be late? Because that’s fine, I really am behind.”
“No, I can’t make it for aperitifs, I have a call that I have to do with the guys here and then a dinner got scheduled.”
“Oh, of course a dinner.”
“Look, you know this was work for me.”
“I know. It’s fine.” As the words leave my mouth, I know it is, I really do think it’s okay, “I’ll just have the room service we ordered then.”
“Oh shit I completely forgot.” I listen to him put his face in his hands, pinching his forehead. He did forget, I know that sound.
“It’s fine, I’m probably going to send out a few emails and read the English-only paper I found at the newsstand. Not to mention finish the champagne for two.”
“Well, why don’t you save me a glass for when I get back? And maybe a couple strawberries too?”
“Sure, I can do that. I’m going up the elevator, so we’ll text soon?”
“Okay, love you.”
“I know, I love you too.” I hang up. I’m not at the hotel. I’m not at the boutique. I’m at the cemetery.
I walk past the marble monuments, lined so close that there remains no gaps for the cats to squeeze through. Some have candles that remain unlit and pooling dust after months. Some have dried flowers hanging from the locks and some appear freshly laid. The tombs with candles are designed with a sliver for people showing respect to stick a lit end to illuminate. It’s a bright afternoon where any candlelight gets dwarfed but the gesture speak volumes. Some family names repeat and others have lines of poetry. There is a strong sense of pride for family name, where these grandchildren children are either grown or have too past away. I look in my grocery bag and see the chocolate ice cream bars are starting to get squishy. At the exit I bow my head to show respect to all the souls, never the religious type but always respectful.
A few blocks away I am back in our penthouse suite. I have just enough time to put my items in the fridge before room service rings at our door. The waiter comes in and arranges the items we ordered on the table and leaves the bill next to the coffee maker to be signed. I walk upstairs to change out of my jeans and into a black maxi skirt. I drop my purse on the bed and take out my lipstick to apply another coat. I may have no one to wear it for but I feel more beautiful with the matte red hue.
“Can you open the champagne, I really don’t want to make a mess.” I ask as I’m walking down the stairs, he nods and takes the bottle from the chill bucket. We are both standing anticipating the pop. I smile, “thank you.” I over-tip for the service and he smiles back. The door shuts and I hear nothing for the next hour besides champagne filling up my flute.
After I pour my 3rd glass I open the fridge door to take out a box of rose petals I bought from the florist. A cheesy gesture I knew would get an easy laugh. I miss watching my husband’s mouth, opening and releasing the scent of sour breath from after too many flutes of champagne. I sigh and open the box. The petals smell of summer romance, wreaths high on the walls of new homes and like our wedding boquet.
The day of our wedding seemed to have snuck up on us, spending weeks in bed comparing, him about my hair and my hands and me about his chest and bony nose. He told me he’d spend his whole life spoiling me with love and tokens from new cities. We made promises to each other, knowing we’ll evolve with some promises kept and others went broken. I feel my phone vibrate in my cardigan pocket. An emoji of a sad cat followed with the line: stuck in this meeting, rather be with you. I drain the glass and look at the time. He’s not going to make it for the arrangement of sweets or the petals, he’s not going to be back here till late at night.
The 4th glass I pair with the pastry basket and fruit that was set to ruin dinner, the spread that now became my dinner. I specified for the yellow tart over the blueberries and flan, knowing he doesn’t like items too heavy. He never relished in the weight of a good pastry like how he never relished in my affection of longing. I sit on the couch to admire the bright autumn sun hovering over the cemetery. The rays of the sun look as if they are reaching down and touching the tops of the mausoleums. It looks so warm, so comforting, so welcoming for those lost and past souls. A clear and present path laid out, if only they were ready to look.
Now on the 5th glass with a steady buzz, I respond back to his text:
“Sad face, I’m going to have a hot shower.”
But I’m not going to be the one who showers, no, these souls in the cemetery will be the ones who get showered. That’s what I should do, shower them with fresh rose petals. I will raise them from their sleepy states and feel their warmth go through my body. I open the balcony door and step out 12 floors up.
“I’m sorry, I want to make it up to you.”
“Brunch tomorrow? Somewhere nice outside of the hotel.”
“ok I’ll make reservations tonight.”
Translation: he’ll find a spot nearby that we can easily walk in. We always walk in and we always order a bottle of win. Those gestures I know will never change but those gestures are in place so we don’t have to talk about the elephant in the room. So we don’t have to talk about when I want another.
With an hour left till sunset, I lift the 6th flute to feel the bubbles on my nose, the smell of luxury. The balcony table is small but stable enough to not move in the breeze, not a harsh wind like you get from the tunnels between buildings on the street and nothing cold that forces me to run back inside. I have the box of rose petals in my hand and I open it up to take out petals between my fingers. Soft like youth and still damp from the fridge.
As I drop each petal-one at a time, I watch the red notes float down in different directions. Some towards the cemetery, some towards the building across the street and some just straight down. Each dependent on the moment the wind blows. When the wind doesn’t blow- there’s no direction, leaving the petal’s destiny to rest on the sidewalk for one of the many small dogs in this city center to poop on. He calls when I’m a third of the way through the box, the time I stop wanting to hear the excuses. The phone stops ringing, voicemail. Oh, looks like he no longer wants to leave a message, perfect. I step back inside our room and finish a raspberry tart and pour out the rest of the bottle. I come back out for the sunset with the lipstick stained flute, leaving behind my phone.
As I’m leaning on the frame of the balcony door, I look at my empty dark green bottle, my half eaten strawberries and my pastries. I see the plates on top of each other on the table and only my napkin sprinkled with pastry shell flakes. Where two napkins were ordered to be together but only one gets used. The 2nd third of the petals I drop from the railing and I each land on the ground. My chest gets smacked with the shock of the fall, the fall coursing up my spine and into my frontal lobe. Where all I see is the end, where all I can envision is the pavement. I look for some air and move towards the edge to hang over the balcony. Lying there between the floor and the bottom railing.
I’m holding the last third of the box taking deep breathes. For I’m going to try and maybe guide these petals. Maybe give some souls an alternate path. I drop each one when I feel the wind on my skirt, hoping some petals will fall on balconies like this one or in neighboring units. It’s late and I hear the street stir with couples heading out for dinner. I don’t get up or move away from the edge, away from wandering eyes but rather I extend my arm to dump out the rest of the petals. As each one glides with the wind, moving by found souls who can smell the bouquet. I lean over the edge to follow the red matte blanket and grow my wings with ease.
is an immigrant from Toronto, who finally listened to her parents advice and moved South. She has performed at Avenue 50, Stories Bookstore and internationally at O’bheal Poetry Series in Cork, Ireland and a TransLate Night show from Helsinki Poetry Connection. She writes weird short stories and is working on her novel, At This Juncture.
Because it’s the last day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and because the last few days have been filled with lists of Asian Pacific American Writers that you should be reading, here is a list of what I thought were well-curated lists and author features on this topic. It also helps that friends of mine were featured on these lists, and some of these lists were written by friends. If you’re looking for things to add to your Summer Reading Lists, please consider picking books and authors recommended in the links below.
1) Beloved Asian American Literature You Have To Read — Curated by Karissa Chen (@karissachen)
“In the end, I simply decided to highlight some of the contemporary literature that has meant the most to me personally, with a greater emphasis on books that have been published in the last few years. Of course, this means I’m leaving out a good number of books that I’m sure would belong on someone else’s list. This also means the list skews heavily towards literary fiction, which is what I tend to read the most. I hope that one day Asian American literature will be so commonplace and so widely read that to try to compile a list like this will seem silly. Until then, I humbly submit twenty of my favorites, and hope this acts as a jumping off point for those looking for great Asian American writers to read.”
2) Books Featuring Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders For Kids and Teens — Curated by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang (@fkwang)
“For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, NBC Asian America took a look at a few new books for children and young adults by Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) writers, finding a growing number of young adult novels, middle grade readers, picture books, fantasy, and graphic novels.”
3) ‘Groundbreaking’ Asian American Poets to Read with Immigrant and Refugee Roots — Curated by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang (@fkwang) & Bryan That Worra
“2016 was a groundbreaking year for many of our members in the Southeast Asian-American poetry community,” Worra told NBC News. “We’re seeing a generation of poets from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and elsewhere fully coming into their voices, drawing on their experiences as refugees in a time when we need those voices most as we confront the current conflicts around us. I’m delighted to see so many not only using their voices to discuss the past, but how it weighs in on the present and the future we might all build together.”
4) The Subversive New Generation of Asian American Writers — Curated by Karan Mahajan (@kmahaj)
“In 2008, Wesley Yang published an essay in n+1 about the Virginia Tech mass shooter; fierce, analytical, and dangerously confessional, it had a testy Naipaulian energy. Other nonfiction writers have come up concurrently or followed suit: Jay Caspian Kang, Hua Hsu, even provocateurs like Eddie Huang and Amy Chua. In fiction, Hanya Yanagihara, Ed Park, Jenny Zhang, Tao Lin, Tanwi Nandini Islam, Alice Sola Kim, Alexander Chee, and Tony Tulathimutte are renovating an ossified genre with outrageous and sometimes hypersexual scenarios. (Kang is a correspondent for VICE on HBO; Huang is the host of the VICELAND show Huang’s World; Lin, Islam, Park, and Tulathimutte are all occasional contributors to this website.) Zhang and Islam also exemplify a style of online confessional essay-writing that draws blood—and thousands of politicized readers.”
In the early part of 2002, Carlo Munoz and I shared a very special relationship. Every weekday evening at 5 PM, we’d meet at a small bakeshop called Valerio’s on the corner of Azusa and Amar in the city of West Covina, California. You see, at 5 PM, the bakeshop took their final batch of pan de sal out of the ovens, so the bread rolls were still hot, fluffy, fresh, and aromatic whenever I stepped into the shop. In other words, it was the perfect time to purchase a bag of pan de sal. Carlo also arrived in the bakeshop at exactly 5 o’clock on the dot. I have to admit, he was as big a motivator as the bread in what brought me to the bakeshop most evenings of the week— maybe a bigger motivator, if I’m being honest. Clean cut, handsome, and with the perfect balance of office attire and wire-rimmed glasses to suggest an attractive amount of nerdiness, he was a joy to look at. I’d bat my lashes at him in expectation, and I think I half-expected him to reach out to me from the television set in the corner of the bakeshop. Because in the year that followed the 9-11 attacks in The United States amidst much of the largely unquestioned rhetoric of “necessary military response,” the comfort of a bread line and a standing appointment with an actor on a Filipino soap opera became my part of my coping strategy at the age of nineteen at a time of military nationalism and fever-pitch Islamophobia.
This anecdote may not be the self-introductory letter that the readership of The East Jasmine Review expects from the publication’s new Editor-in-Chief. What does the self-care pattern of a college student from fifteen years ago have to do with the transitional leadership of a literary journal today? For one, I think that the state of global politics in the current moment is a loud reverberation of the days following 9-11. So much so that the tears I shed on the night of The United States’ 2016 General Election had the same stinging pain to them as the tears I shed days after the twin towers fell in New York. It was a stinging pain wrapped up in the same questions I asked the universe across the fifteen-year chasm of time: What kind of racial violence will this precipitate, and what forms of violence will this new rise of American Nationalism allow people to get away with? (Note: Here I speak of America because by circumstance of birth, I am an American citizen.)
I have tried, in the 5 months since I’ve assumed the role of this publication’s Editor-in-Chief, to write a letter to the readership— to tell you who I am, to share with you how I plan to implement the magazine’s mission to uplift and center voices largely ignored or silenced by the wider publishing world. I was excited to announce that we— the new editors and I— were here to help center the voices of the marginalized. Women of Color. LGBT Writers. New voices. More voices. And then days after he assumed his new job, Donald Trump implemented a Muslim Ban. Showing up at airports in support of the people unlawfully detained and participating in direct action political organizing became the priority, because for all my talk about centering marginalized voices, how could I help center voices but stand to the side while those same voices are systematically smothered?
Systematic racial violence is, of course, not new and certainly didn’t recently arrive in The United States or onto the global stage in 2016 or 2002. But this letter to you isn’t meant to be a history lesson. I mention the long history of global oppression, though, because I think it’s important that you, the readership know who I am and what concerns me as editor and curator of this magazine. While, thus far, I have indicated to you some the things that motivate and inspire my curatorial eye, perhaps it is time that I, in the grand literary tradition of declaring oneself, tell you who I am.
My name is Cherisse Yanit Nadal, and you can find my bona fides here. I am a writer, political organizer, musician, and sometimes-scholar. I am an anti-imperialist, transnational feminist. I am for ending the world-wide genocide and oppression against all women-identified persons. I am for ending the state-sanctioned violence and genocide against black bodies in The United States and the world. I am against gendered violence. I am against racism. I am against transphobia. I am against homophobia. I am against all forms of systemic, state-sanctioned oppression. I am against the rise of global fascism. And I write to you, readers and writers alike, with the hope that as we move forward as The East Jasmine Review community the writing that we feature here will include an intersectional, transnational, and progressive view of the world and literary landscape.
Also joining me as we move forward are our veteran editors, V.E. Duncan in Poetry, and Stephanie Barbé Hammer in Creative Nonfiction. We welcome new editors, Eric Nguyen and Julianne Carew in Fiction, as well as Rozlind Silva in Poetry. You can find out more about them by clicking on their names on the masthead here. We are also fortunate this year in that a Southern California literary non-profit organization has agreed to be our non-profit fiscal sponsor. Thanks to The San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival, we will now be able to accept donations. Check back with our website in the future for more details.
If you are a writer who is interested in writing for us, we are always accepting rolling submissions, but if you would like your work to be considered for our first issue of the year which will be published in late July 2017, please send in your submission no later than June 20, 2017.
Cherisse Yanit Nadal
East Jasmine Review
Erin Michaela Sweeney
The text from my sister flashed on my phone: I need to talk to you. But I’m scared.
I texted back: Will call in 10 mins. It would have to wait until my husband and I put our two-year-old down for the night. Why would she be scared? Puzzled and concerned, I hurried through the rituals ending in hugs and kisses. Maybe Robin had broken up with her partner or regretted her new career track?
Three years before, our dad was diagnosed with cancer, and I’d gone through my leukemia ordeal just a year before. They say bad news comes in threes. Had Robin now received terrible medical news in 2012?
Once we wrapped up the bedtime goodnights, I rushed to the living room and anxiously called my only sibling. Robin picked up on the first ring.
I began with our familiar salutation: “Hello, my sister.” Silence greeted me on the other end. “So,” I eased out, “What’s up?”
The quiet lasted so long, I wondered if the line had gone dead. I glanced at the face of my cell to be sure we were still connected. At that moment, I heard my sister stutter-start. She cleared her throat and said softly but matter-of-factly in my ear: “I’m transgender. Do you know what that means?”
It was my turn to pause. I wanted to observe, feel, and process, as was my meditative nature. With a slow syllable, I answered yes. I knew transgender was the “T” at the end of the acronym LGBT. I sensed the need to focus on “transgender” with which I had no personal experience, especially because I’d lived and worked in southeast Virginia—a cloistered, rather homogenous region—the first ten years of this century. It was going to be a steep learning curve.
To ground myself, I pressed the four corners of my feet onto the laminate flooring beneath my chair. I waited for Robin to fill in the gaping holes of my knowledge. When a close friend came out to me as gay after college back in the 1990s, he said I’d come across as nonchalant, which damaged our relationship. I knew the way I reacted to my sister’s news could make or break our close bond. This was not your everyday conversation.
I had questions—some philosophical, others, practical. What did her partner, Lesley, think of this revelation? Was I the last to know, just like two decades before when she came out as a lesbian? Would the haters in the world try to hurt her because she identified as transgender? How did she define transgender for her own life? Most important, would she be happier as a he?
We talked, or, more precisely, Robin talked and I listened with occasional conversational noises to let her know I was still with her. At first, some of what she told me that cool winter evening seemed cheesy or superficial. “Chaz Bono is on this season’s Dancing with the Stars.” “I’m now buying ties.” Uneasiness swept over me—what did ties and Chaz Bono have to do with anything? But I continued to listen to that oh-so-familiar voice.
Robin explained the importance of these signifiers.
After living the wild ride as the child of celebrities, Chaz upended everyone’s expectations. Chaz was formerly known as Chastity, daughter of Sonny Bono and Cher, and more than a ballroom dance contestant. He broke out of the confines of the female box ticked on his birth certificate. The newsstand magazines covered it all. As the first openly transgender person scrutinized by the mainstream media, Chaz’s activism on behalf of the transgender community reached the entire nation. He symbolized what could be for Robin.
When she saw the documentary about Chaz’s transition—a story of a boy trapped in a girl’s body—she identified with Chaz’s years of longing to be known on the outside how he felt on the inside. “Watching the documentary was the final validation of what I always knew in my heart and struggled to reconcile throughout my adult life.”
This conversation happened about a year after my blood cancer diagnosis. The five rounds of chemotherapy to get me into remission and keep me there—each of which was administered in hospital 24/7 over eight to ten days—still greatly affected me. I had what people call chemo brain, where a patient’s cognitive abilities to focus and concentrate are diminished. At that point in my recovery, for instance, I couldn’t keep track of the plot of a short story. Even with my medical shortcomings, I listened as hard as I could to the words tumbling at me and absorbed the passion in Robin’s voice during our hour-long talk. The thought of losing me, something Robin had never contemplated, started her questioning everything about her own life. Such profound reflections, she told me, helped bring to the surface her deeply held belief she was a he. Change was coming. And I felt privileged to be one of the first people to whom Robin revealed her truth.
Back in early 2012, when we had that conversation, the nation’s attention was not yet focused on the transgender community as it is today. Orange Is the New Black, with trans actress Laverne Cox, wouldn’t premiere on Netflix for another eighteen months, about the same time Neil Patrick Harris performed as Hedwig at the Tony Awards. It wasn’t until June 2015 that a transitioned Bruce Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair with the headline “Call Me Caitlyn.” But there was a backlash. In March of this year, North Carolina passed controversial legislation requiring transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to the gender marked on their birth certificate.
During that pivotal conversation with Robin, my mind wandered back in time. My sister and I shared our childhood in a stable, two-parent home with an academic father and a stay-at-home mother. By the time my blurry toddler pictures appeared in our family’s photo albums, my older sister had her hair in an androgynous bowl cut and wore bell-bottoms. No frilly dresses for her.
Robin developed big breasts by the time she was ten, an awkward addition for any girl to cope with, more so for someone who felt always out of place in her body. I remember going to an amusement park with her, our dad, and a school friend to celebrate my seventh birthday. Robin was twelve years old. On one of the rides, the attendant mistook her for our dad’s wife rather than his daughter. We all laughed at the mistake, but the look of horror on my sister’s rose-tinged face made me worry that my chuckles had hurt her feelings.
In high school, Robin was the only girl to compete in the shot put, which took strength and mettle. She gained so much muscle in her arms and back she split the shoulder seams of her shirts. Though her enhanced physique impressed me, I remember wondering how her friends and others reacted. But what did I know? I was just a self-absorbed junior high school kid wanting to blend into the crowd.
Since her high school days, my sister wore a gender-neutral uniform of oxford-cloth, long-sleeve shirts tucked into khakis or button-fly jeans. By adding ties to the mix in her mid-forties, she was declaring to the world her intention to be viewed as male.
“How did Lesley react to the news?” I asked. The two met in graduate school classes for marriage and family therapy. An insightful woman who had previously been a social worker, Lesley was the best person my sister had ever known in her romantic life. Robin gleefully relayed her partner’s reaction: “Took you long enough to figure that one out.” Lesley recognized Robin’s path before my sister’s inner feelings had harmonized with her outward life.
Over the next weeks and months, I would hear from Robin and read about the transgender movement and community, the jargon used, and some of the medical lingo. Though I missed saying “Hello, my sister,” I continued to feel nervous excitement for what lay ahead.
That evening, after Robin filled my mind with definitions, explanations, and stories, we had come to the close of our conversation. In a teeny voice from far away, Robin asked, “Do you still love me?”
My heart leapt into my throat. I wished then that the conversation had been face-to-face and not on the phone. I needed Robin there to embody all those memories. “You are my one and only sibling, the first person I ever smiled at.” I struggled for the right words and finally found them: “I love you unconditionally.”
Time has passed since that conversation. I’ve celebrated five years cancer-free, Rob and Lesley are still going strong, and our sibling connection is as deeply felt as ever. Most important, Rob is a joyful living soul as a he.
Erin Michaela Sweeney is a writer, mommy, yogini, daughter, editor, sister, and napper extraordinaire who lives in Claremont, California. She connects with readers via her newsletter, Twitter, and Facebook.
The following is an audio track for Memory Beauteous in Volume 3, Issue 3
The People’s Republic of Snot
has, once again, sent an invasion fleet
into my head
and I’m tripping
balls on a bag of shrooms
because laughing at the news with God
is the only sensible way
to ride out a head cold. I’m wearing
thirty-dollar socks and I’m pretty sure
my feet have an erection.
My internal organs
I have weak thumbs
and a mouthful of disease
but it’s only five episodes long. Netflix and Hell
are kind of the same thing,
kind of perfect on a cold day, but I want
to go outside, run jump ride a bike
eat mystery meat on a stick. The future was
supposed to be flying cars and teleportation,
not bagging our own groceries and televisions
that tweet. #bullshit
I stood in front of a 7-Eleven
without my penis
selling a wide variety of pork pie hats
(as you do).
My mother crouched nearby
in the underbrush
blood stringing off her chin
eating a sable.
memories of cheating
on women. I wish
I could blame it on being younger.
Where on earth is 6am?
in my mind in the mirror
my beard says
walt whitman hey man, got any change?
Write to Congress! Demand they solve
all 32,000 FreeCell games!
Demand they recognize orange
as a primary color! Is there any problem
Wish I still had my old Pee Chee
folders. The ones with the right
colors (dried blood on goldenrod).
Pulling rainbows out of my under-
wear, a look of mock surprise on my face, routine
disappointment on my wife’s. Honey—
Is this really every week?
All this mayhem? This bombing
of countries with toys? To save face?
Submissions are currently closed until March 16, 2016. Thank you for your patience!
seem wrong, a specifically heinous sacrilege
against their animalistic nature.
Buds that bloom in the darkest corners,
intrusively force eyes to take notice
of their beauty, should maintain the right of root,
should be granted reprieve from any potential
removal, should never know the meaning
of cut or pluck or pick, should have the right
to request a stone to shatter glass
vases that far too closely resemble prisons.
Bio: A.J. Huffman has published eleven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. her new poetry collections, Another Blood Jet (Eldritch Press), A Few Bullets Short of Home (mgv2>publishing), and Butchery of the Innocent (Scars Publications) are now available from their respective publishers. She has two additional poetry collections forthcoming: Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink) and A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press). She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2300 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. www.kindofahurricanepress.com.