by Sara Youngblood Gregory

Elaine Scarry writes, for the person in pain, so incontestably and unnegotiably present is it, that ‘having pain’ may come to be thought of as the most vibrant example of what it is to ‘have certainty,’ while for the other person it is so elusive that ‘hearing about pain’ may exist as the primary model of what it is to have doubt /

Salomé says anyone with a marginalized identity / let’s call them cardinals / any cardinal at all / lives her life tense, under threat / her body seals up that tension because she expects a fight / her whole life is a fight / her wings are brittle from hugging her own body, from snapping out too quick /

The egg inside has never slept through the night / Whatever tension from her mother’s womb and her mother’s mother’s womb is now the cardinal’s womb / Cardinals don’t mean to carry it / it is forced / structural   generational   carnal a carnival, the womb is different from ovaries / or a vagina / or anything certain / The womb is the body she sleeps in  /  the primary model of what it is to have doubt /

When I got hit by that car it took months to learn that god didn’t love me  /  If he loved me he would have killed me  /  there is a window in my ankle bone /  kneel down  /  put your eye to my body /  your lips to my calf she is atrophied /  look closer / and there again is the anger of Patroclus / he is wandering my body / he is tragedy / stray arrow  stray car   stray burial /  Patroclus takes up the mantle or doesn’t /   you tell me   /   I can’t see inside my own womb  I only feel /  shovel striking dirt /

Salomé’s spine broke  three years after her father died / I turn on google maps / turn left on 34th and Salomé goes lost for the whole afternoon /  after the last ding her father punched her in the face /   Salomé is tense   / she’s had both hands operated on, too /  if you’re wondering /

Amy Berkowitz writes, In 1970, a German activist group called the Socialist Patients’ Collective recognized capitalism as the root cause of all illness. To be sick, then, was a political act: a passive resistance against capitalism. The group’s slogan: Turn illness into a weapon. /

Sara Youngblood Gregory (she/they) is a lesbian poet and culture writer. She serves on the board of directors for the lesbian literary and arts journal Sinister Wisdom. Her work has been published or forthcoming in The Rumpus, Tahoma Literary Review, Queen Mobs, and The Adroit Journal.

Poetry short story

Passion / La Pasión
by Gisela Kozak Rovero

Tr. María José Giménez and Anna Rosenwong.

We walk away from love

like from a plane crash

—Cristina Peri-Rossi

Convinced and conquered, wet and eager, I watch you sleep after walking through the door of this room in a house owned by a mutual friend who refuses to take sides in the civil war. You and I are in different camps—that’s why we split up a year ago. There is a truce and I’m supposed to write an article about this border between void and oblivion, but really I’m here because I still love you. You must be so tired—you didn’t even turn off the dim yellow lamp on the bedside table. Your military uniform lies wrinkled on the chair: a chemist turned warrior. It’s cold but you sleep safe wrapped in thick covers that reveal only the curve of your calf, the fine muscles of your arm, your neck. I take in your profile, the blunt, straight line of your nose coming down from your brow. I walk in, close the door, take off my leather jacket, leave it on the only chair in the room. I lean over you tenderly and adjust the blankets on your body. I want to be them and touch all of your skin in a single caress. I lie down next to you. You accept my presence, you are asleep. Are you awake? Barely touching, I brush my nose along the back of your neck to your ear; the scent is yours alone. I feel you stir and I wrap my left arm around you. You lean closer, you know it’s me holding you. My breasts test their firmness against your back. My other hand props up my head. You open your eyes but don’t look at me right away. My fingers caress your belly and start moving up. You shift away shyly; I don’t insist, I kiss your neck, I’ve never stopped loving you, not even for a day, I whisper. I want to enjoy your left breast, feel it fill my hand once again, coax forth the hardness of your nipple. You wriggle impatiently; we’ve been lying on our side and you turn to face me. You meet my waiting mouth, I keep it pressed against yours; I tilt my head ever so slightly, my right arm cradling your shoulders and neck. At the slightest movement of my lips, yours part shyly. I envelop your lips with mine. I am the one driving the kiss, its intensity, duration, the right amount of moisture, the exact movement of my tongue: just the tip. It’s a long kiss, a recognition, a reuniting. I am here to give in, I know that. You try to stop me. I watch your dark eyes say yes and your lips say no. You sit up. I pull you towards me. Now I am the one offering you my mouth, wrapping myself around your neck, the one waiting to be possessed in an embrace, whispering in your ear make me yours, do whatever you want with me, I’ll give you anything you ask for, you hold me. I am still half dressed, which bothers you, humiliates you a little. My being clothed highlights your nakedness. You’ve always slept naked, but it’s too cold tonight. Did you know I’d come see you? I pull away for a moment, look at you, I see fragility, hold you, rock you, say what I came here to tell you: I surrender. You say nothing. Minutes pass between embraces, kisses of varying intensity, caressing one another’s backs and hair. I face you and take off my t-shirt. You caress my breasts slowly, then harder; my neck arches back (I missed you so much) my eyebrows meet (I wanted you so badly) my mouth opens, I moan. The precision, the swiftness of your tongue, the way you open your mouth and envelop my nipple—I’ve always loved it. We change positions, you let me take over, laying you back and working my way down to your breasts. I’m gentle, running my closed mouth over the tips before tasting them, I kiss them patiently, squeeze the nipples between two fingers, stroke them with the tip of one. You start to arch your back, to moan, to lose control. You spread your thighs, wanting me to get between them. I do, taking care to put only the right amount of weight on top of you. We move to a slow beat, at exactly the same rhythm, touching each other’s faces, hair, a caress that envelopes the entire body, focused, at times gazing at each other, burying my face in your neck, clinging to each other with hot tenderness because in the midst of this danger we are the life we have left. A long kiss heralds the brewing storm; I return to your breasts their master, unleashed, I taste them, take them in my mouth. My hand caresses your vulva, you open up languorously, I hold back, barely touch your clitoris. Your hand on mine says you want more. My middle finger rubs lightly up and down and back again. I rise to your mouth and while I kiss you I bring my fingers down to the opening of your vagina and hold them there. You stop me, lay me back on the bed, strip off what’s left of my clothes, and our bodies emulsify into a dance that lasts minutes; you are on top of me, you ride me patient and knowing, taming my restlessness while I hold on to your shoulders and ask you to keep going. My body accepts your rhythm, your weight, the way you nibble on my ears, your haughty kiss of lip against lip, your conquering tongue, then a precise bite to give the slightest pain, a pain soothed by the tenderness of your next kiss. The rhythm changes, our kisses sweeter, our movement more measured. Fuck me, I beg, you cradle me in your arms for an instant. You search between my thighs, put just the right pressure on my clitoris, then enter me with two cautious fingers. You go slow to drive me mad. I asked for a truce, hold on love, I said with such tenderness that you let me go without complaint. In an instant my face was between your legs. Your pearl peeked through, round and full. The tip of my tongue ran from the opening of your vagina to your erect clitoris, and stopped: first a light touch… shudder… again. Pressing down, I lick lightly at first and, hearing your moans, your “faster,” I lick furiously, wrap my lips around your pearl and suck, breathe in your vanilla scent, your carefully shaved and manicured hair. Your vulva is beautiful, its flesh pink, outer lips as perfectly contoured as the inner. My tongue is precise on your clitoris, pleasure draws out your moans. Then you say, “Like that, fuck me.” My fingers enter your vagina and your anus and a minute later your spasms begin: I feel the first tremor on my tongue and contractions around my fingers, rhythmic, harder at first, then softer. Your moans are irregular, then longer and more sustained. You come. You push me away, exhausted, sweet, moaning, quivering. You feel my face next to yours and caress it without opening your eyes.

You don’t forgive me for your submission. You take your time turning me over, I know what you want, my knees and elbows meet the bed. I arch my back and moan, does it hurt, no, maybe a little, you thrust, you go deeper, yes, it hurts a little, I gasp for air as an orgasm shakes me deep inside. I bury my face in the bed, utterly invaded. Mild orgasms are followed by deeper tremors. Your fingers pull a deep, visceral groan out of me, an orgasm full of spasms. We are tired but a few minutes later you are in front of me, I grab the back of your neck, kiss you, my finger caressing your most secret opening forgiving and tender, your thighs wide open, your right middle finger touching your clit. I want to see your face while you have another orgasm. I lay you back on the bed, enter you with my right hand and press my fingers up towards your belly. My left hand behind your neck is pulling you down, your dark eyes are glistening, you flush all the way to your throat, accept the pleasure I’m giving you, out of loneliness? out of need? for the past? for love? The wetness that allows my hand to slip inside you is your gift to me. I stroke your clit with my thumb: your dark eyes open even wider, your pupils dilate, you blink, furrow your brow; an expression of slight pain and extreme pleasure, I can see your teeth, your pink tongue. You look at me almost startled, with secret defiance, scream under your breath, climax. Then your sharp, swift tongue draws out my last orgasm almost at the edge of fainting. In the morning I wake up in your arms, your forehead against the back of my neck. I ask you: what’s going to happen with us now? You say nothing. Are you really asleep?

Salimos del amor 

como de una catástrofe aérea

 Cristina Peri-Rossi 

Convencida y vencida, húmeda y anhelante, te contemplo dormida luego de abrir la puerta del cuarto en el que duermes en la casa de una amiga común que se niega a tomar partido en la guerra civil. Tú y yo estamos en bandos distintos y por eso nos separamos hace un año. Hay una tregua y debo hacer un reportaje sobre esta frontera entre la nada y el olvido, pero en realidad estoy aquí porque te sigo amando. Qué cansada debes estar pues ni siquiera apagaste una débil luz amarillenta que tienes en la mesa cerca de tu cama. Tu uniforme militar está arrugado en una silla: una química trocada en guerrera. Hace frío pero tú duermes confiada entre cobijas gruesas que te envuelven y que solo dejan ver una pantorrilla torneada, un brazo finamente musculoso, el cuello. Disfruto tu perfil, la nariz que surge del entrecejo con un trazo contundente y recto. Entro, cierro, me quito la chaqueta de cuero, la dejo en la única silla. Con ternura me inclino sobre ti, arreglo las cobijas sobre tu cuerpo. Quiero ser esas cobijas para tocar toda tu piel en una sola caricia. Me acuesto a tu lado. Aceptas mi presencia, estás dormida, ¿estás despierta? Recorro apenas rozándote con mi nariz tu cuello desde la nuca hasta tu oreja; el olor es solo tuyo. Siento tu estremecimiento y te envuelvo con el brazo izquierdo, te acomodas, sabes que soy yo quien te abraza. Mis pechos prueban su dureza en tu espalda. Mi otra mano sostiene mi cabeza. Abres los ojos pero no me miras de inmediato. Con los dedos comienzo a recorrer tu vientre y empiezo a subir. Haces un gesto tímido intentando evitarlo; no insisto, beso tu cuello, no he dejado de amarte nunca, ni un día, murmuro. Quisiera disfrutar tu pecho izquierdo, volver a sentir de nuevo que me llena la mano, tentar el endurecimiento de tu pezón. Haces un gesto de inquietud; hemos estado de costado y te das la vuelta para enfrentarme. Tropiezas con mi boca que te espera, la mantengo sobre la tuya; apenas ladeo la cabeza, mi brazo derecho se acomoda en tu nuca y hombros, mis labios hacen apenas un movimiento sobre los tuyos que se entreabren con un gesto tímido. Envuelvo tus labios con los míos, soy yo la que conduce el beso, la intensidad, el tiempo que durará, el punto justo de humedad, el movimiento exacto de la lengua: apenas la punta. Es un beso largo, de reconocimiento, de reencuentro. Aquí vine a claudicar, lo sé. Tratas de detenerme, observo tus ojos negros que dicen que sí y tus labios que dicen que no. Te sientas, te atraigo hacia mí. Soy yo quien te ofrece la boca, la que rodea tu cuello, la que espera el abrazo que posee, la que te murmura a tu oído hazme tuya, haz lo que quieras conmigo, te daré lo que pidas, me abrazas. Todavía estoy a medio vestir, eso te molesta, te humilla un poco. El que yo esté con ropa enfatiza tu desnudez. Siempre has dormido desnuda, pero hace demasiado frío. ¿O sabías que vendría a verte? Te separo un momento de mí, te miro, veo fragilidad, te abrazo, te acuno, te digo lo que vine a decirte: me rindo. No contestas, pasan minutos entre abrazos, besos de variada intensidad, caricias en la espalda, en el cabello. Frente a tu rostro me quito la franela, me acaricias los pechos lentamente y luego de un modo más intenso; mi cuello se arquea (te extrañaba tanto) mi entrecejo se une (te deseaba tanto) mi boca se abre, gimo. La precisión, la rapidez de tu lengua, la forma de abrir la boca y cubrir el pezón siempre me han gustado. Vamos cambiando de posición, me dejas hacer cuando te recuesto y bajo a tus pechos. Los trato con gentileza, mi boca cerrada los recorre antes de probarlos, te los beso con paciencia, presiono tus pezones entre dos dedos, los acaricio con la yema del índice, empiezas a arquearte, a gemir, a perder el control. Abres tus muslos, quieres que me acomode entre ellos. Lo hago, cuidando no exceder el peso justo sobre tu cuerpo. Nos movemos llevando un compás suave, exactamente al mismo ritmo, tocándonos las caras, el cabello, en una caricia que incluye todo el cuerpo, concentradas, mirándonos a veces, escondiendo mi cara en tu cuello, aferrándonos con ternura de alta temperatura la una a la otra porque en medio de este peligro somos la vida que nos queda.Un beso largo indica la tempestad en ciernes; regreso a tus pechos dueña y sin freno, los pruebo, los envuelvo con mi boca. Mi mano acaricia tu vulva, te abres sin apuro, me contengo, apenas rozo tu clítoris. Tu mano en la mía indica que quieres más. Mi dedo medio presiona suavemente de arriba hacia abajo y viceversa. Subo a tu boca y mientras te beso bajo a la entrada de tu vagina y dejo los dedos justo en la entrada. Me detienes, me recuestas, me quitas lo que me queda de ropa y nuestros cuerpos se emulsionan en una danza que dura minutos; estás sobre mí, me jineteas paciente y sabia, me amansas la inquietud mientras te sujeto por los hombros y te pido que sigas. Mi cuerpo acepta tu ritmo, tu peso, tu forma de mordisquear mis orejas, tu beso altanero de labio contra labio, tu lengua vencedora, un mordisco preciso que da un levísimo dolor, dolor curado por la ternura de tu beso siguiente. El ritmo es otro, los besos más dulces, el movimiento más acompasado. Penétrame, te pido, me acunas por un instante en tu regazo. Buscas entre mis muslos, me tocas el clítoris con la frotación exacta, al rato introduces dos dedos, cuidadosa. Eres lenta para enloquecerme. Te pedí una tregua, ya va amor, te dije con tanta ternura que me soltaste sin chistar. En un instante tenía mi rostro en tu bajo vientre. Tu perla asomaba redonda y plena. La punta de la lengua recorrió desde la entrada de tu vagina hasta el clítoris erecto y se detuvo: primeo un toque …estremecimiento…Otro. Presionar, lamer con levedad primero y ante tus gemidos, tu “más rápido”, lamer velozmente, envolver tu perla con los labios y chuparla, sentir tu olor a vainilla, los vellos cuidadosamente afeitados y puestos en su lugar. Tu vulva es hermosa, su carne es rosada, los labios mayores están tan bien modelados como los menores. Mi lengua es precisa con tu clítoris, el placer te arranca gemidos. Luego me dices “Así, cógeme”. Te penetro con mis dedos por la vagina y el ano y al minuto los espasmos comienzan: siento el primer sismo en mi lengua y las contracciones en mis dedos, rítmicas, primero más fuertes, luego más leves. Los gemidos son irregulares hasta hacerse cada vez más largos y sostenidos. Terminas. Me apartas, agotada, dulce, gimiente, temblorosa. Luego cuando sientes mi rostro cerca del tuyo, lo acaricias sin abrir los ojos.No me perdonas tu entrega. Me volteas sin apuro, sé lo que quieres, mis rodillas y mis codos van a la cama. Me arqueo y gimo, te duele, no, quizás duela un poco, te hincas, te afincas, sí, duele un poco, jadeo mientras el orgasmo tiembla en el vientre. Recuesto la cara de la cama, completamente invadida. A los orgasmos leves ya ocurridos sucederían las sacudidas mayores. Tus dedos me sacan un gemido profundo y visceral, un orgasmo pleno de espasmos. Estamos cansadas pero unos minutos después estás delante de mí, te sujeto por la nuca, te beso, mi dedo te acaricia tu orificio más secreto de modo clemente y tierno, tus muslos estás abiertos, tocas tu clítoris con tu dedo medio derecho. Quiero ver tus gestos mientras tienes otro orgasmo. Te recuesto en la cama, te penetro con la mano derecha y sigo la ruta hacia el vientre, muevo los dedos hacia arriba, presionando. Mi mano izquierda en tu nuca está jalándote hacia abajo, los ojos negros te brillan, enrojeces hasta el cuello, aceptas el placer que te doy ¿por soledad, por necesidad, por el pasado, por amor? Esa humedad que facilita el deslizarse de mi mano dentro de ti es un regalo que me haces. Acaricio tu clítoris con el pulgar: tus ojos negros se abren todavía más, las pupilas dilatan, parpadeas, frunces levemente el entrecejo; es la cara de dolor leve del placer extremo, veo tus dientes, tu lengua rosada. Me miras como extrañada, con secreta rebeldía, gritas ahogadamente, culminas. Luego tu lengua afilada y rápida extrae mi último orgasmo casi al borde del desmayo. En la mañana me despierto abrazada por ti, tu frente está en mi nuca. Te pregunto: ¿y ahora qué pasará con nosotras? No contestas. ¿De verdad estarás dormida?

Texto perteneciente a En rojo.Narración coral. Caracas, Alfa, 2011.

Gisela Kozak-Rovero is a Venezuelan writer. Bachelor’s Degree in Literature (Central University of Venezuela); Master´s Degree in Latin American Literature and PhD  in Literature (Simón Bolívar University). Full Professor at the Central University of Venezuela, where she worked for 25 years. Eleven books published (academic research, essay, short story, novel). Dozens of papers in academic journals.   Letras Libres and Literal Magazine columnist. Op-Ed, short story and chronicles in Les Temps Modernes, Latin American Literature Today, Gaceta del Fondo de Cultura Económica, La Razón (Mexico), El Malpensante, Diálogo Político, Vogue,  Altaïr, The New York Times.Part of her academic and literary work has been translated into French, Portuguese, English and Slovenian. Sylvia Molloy Award for the best paper on Gender and Sexuality (LASA, 2009). She currently lives in Mexico City.

María José Giménez is a poet, translator, and editor whose work has received support from the NEA, the Studios at MASS MoCA, the Breadloaf Translators’ Conference, Canada Council for the Arts, and the Banff International Literary Translation Centre. María José is the 2019–2021 Poet Laureate of Easthampton, Massachusetts, author of CHELATED (Belladonna*), and winner of the American Academy of Poets Ambroggio Prize (Mara Pastor’s DEUDA NATAL/NATAL DEBT, with Anna Rosenwong).

Anna Rosenwong is a translator and developmental editor. Her work has been honored with the Best Translated Book Award, the American Academy of Poets Ambroggio Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Banff International Literary Translation Centre, and the American Literary Translators Association. Her publications include Rocío Cerón’s Diorama and here the sun’s for real, selected translations of José Eugenio Sánchez. Her scholarly and creative work has been featured in such venues as World Literature TodayThe Kenyon Review, and Modern Poetry Today.


Two Poems
by Karen Poppy

When It’s a Woman

On July 2, 2020, the FBI arrested Jeffrey Epstein’s best friend and confidante Ghislaine Maxwell on federal charges, including transporting a minor for the purposes of criminal sexual activity and conspiring to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, as well as perjury. 

The sea sways womanly, floats
and bloats your father’s body.
You, always daddy’s little girl.

We push on, give birth to our own children.
The sea will pull you in, unbirth you and
beat you, forcibly expel you.
Return you to your father—
your flat eyes already dead.

I state this all hypothetically.
Facts await eventual uncover
by moving sands on this sea floor.

That’s where you’ll find me. Us.
Beaming a single light 
to an ever-shifting surface,
signaling from monster-populated dark, heartbeat
you can’t erase: I am here, I am here…

Pulse and surge. You swallowed us whole.

It happens in every community.
I will tell you how two women,
a famous author and her best friend,
drugged a sister, laughed at her body.
Trust violated, she fell under.

When a woman tricks you—
betrays you
by taking you beneath her wing.

Shame drives us below.
Then truth comes out. Truth comes out in time.
When we speak from depths, call with persistent, 
searing cadence. Light-lifted and liberated.
United and aware of our own power.

The Eaten

I am the dark legacy
Of animal devouring.
Grizzled flesh, chiaroscuro 
Offering, glistening snake
Of intestines, jeweled
Jam of vitals organs.
Treasure coffin of ribs,
Sternum. Heart beating
Its pulse, in memoriam
To myself. The she-lion,
Lioness, grazes with
Her teeth passionately.
Their glint soft like her
Tongue upon my every
Recess. She brings deep
Parts of me to her young.
I fulfill one strand of prey,
Power. The weaker, outrun.

Karen Poppy has work published in The Cortland Review (Best of the Net nomination), Naugatuck River Review (11th Annual Narrative Poetry Contest Finalist), The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, ArLiJo, and Wallace Stevens Journal. Her chapbook, CRACK OPEN/EMERGENCY, is published by Finishing Line Press (2020), and she has another chapbook forthcoming with Finishing Line Press. Her chapbook, EVERY POSSIBLE THING, is published by Homestead Lighthouse Press (2020). One of her poems has recently been selected by 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States, Tracy K. Smith, for her national radio show and podcast, The Slowdown. An attorney licensed in California and Texas, Karen Poppy lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. More at


“Moon Pebbles”
by Stace Brandt

You don’t feel the need for language to be strangled like I do. You let it be poetry, fall as it will. When words come out of your mouth it feels like dancing. I wouldn’t let mine loose like that. My feet were fettered as your body moved and tried to pull me in. Sometimes I feel like I’m benching myself. You have a way of filling up empty dancefloors. Everything is a dancefloor. You have a way of passing out literal roses to a bar full of strangers. You know how to laugh with strangers. 

Sometimes I feel like a stranger who wants to know you. Sometimes I feel like no one in particular. You make me feel like someone in particular while still managing to acknowledge how stupidly microscopic we are. “Life’s like two seconds,” you said, as we walked onto that beach that spilled out of the dunes. It all felt like an illustration of your point. I’ve never felt so small and so specific at the same time, like we were pebbles on the moon. 

When words come out of your mouth it feels like dancing. I wouldn’t let mine loose like that.

That same beach had purple patches of sand, crushed up garnet, apparently. When you saw the purple, you screamed and ran to it while I, becoming an onlooker, watched as you dropped to your knees and began to run your hands through it. What is there to be embarrassed about, really? I don’t know, but sometimes I laugh when everything else is paralyzed. You were rejoicing in the purple. You wanted to put some in your hair for later. There is no room for embarrassment in any of your pockets. They are heavy with sand and shells and stones. 

Stace Brandt is a queer/lesbian writer, artist, and musician based in the Boston area. She is a Sagittarius sun, Leo rising, and Cancer moon, which probably explains a lot. Along with creative pursuits in words and sounds, Stace is the assistant director and curator of an artist-run, contemporary art gallery in Boston called VERY