Woman, Silent

My mother said, “It’s ok to say no.”

I needed a cup from my grandmother’s cupboard, but I was four, unable to reach. My aunt grabbed me by the waist, cupping my bottom the way a swing set holds the body of small children. She hoisted me up to reach the cup, but I wouldn’t grab one. When she set me down I mumbled, don’t touch my private parts. Her laugh was defensive. She confronted my mother and said I was disrespectful. My mother said, “She governs her own body.”

In middle school an older female teacher sometimes walked behind students and laid her hands on them. Everyone joked about how inappropriate it was. As a class, we decided we would stand up and voice our discomfort. One day, she rested her hands on my shoulders. I jumped up. Don’t touch me, I shouted. The room was silent. I was sent to the principals’ office and eventually transferred to another teacher. My mother was proud of me, although I’m ashamed of myself now for those moments of pain etched in my teacher’s face after I’d shouted at her.

That was my mother’s gift to me. While other parents taught their children to say yes, to their teachers and their elders and their peers, my mother was adamant I learn to speak for my body.

Recently I went to get a massage from a cheap parlor; a type of place where you don’t undress. I signed a form stating I wanted a stranger’s hands on my body, to pull and push it into submission.

In a communal room, my masseuse told me, in broken and heavily accented English, to flip onto my stomach. Without speaking, he removed my arms from the shoulder straps of my dress. I assisted him. My stomach burned. He tugged at the dress, mumbling something as he pulled hard against my waist. I was waiting for him to stop. Stop beneath my shoulder blades. Stop there, at the lowest rib. My body became a list he checked off with ticks. He unsnapped my bra.

When the dress was pulled to my hips, just below the two dimples along my lower back, I told him that was far enough, the only words I was able to utter. The breath from his laugh hit my naked back and stung.

Later I learned I’d unknowingly consented to a massage, body unclothed. The masseuse was not a predator. But during that hour, I was a woman, silent.

Afterward he tried to snap my bra back on for me. I removed his hands and attempted it myself. My hands shook; I couldn’t hook the clips of my bra. He laughed again as I took the bra off completely and, still face down, slithered back into my dress. I shoved a crinkled five-dollar bill into his hand, fled.

In the car I fixed smudged mascara, my frizzled hair. My lip was swollen from where I’d bit it to keep from screaming.


by Briana Loveall

In 2018 Briana Loveall was a finalist for the Beacon Street Prize and the winner of the Peninsula Pulse Hal Award. In 2017 she was a finalist for the Montana Book Festival Award and the Annie Dillard Award. Her worth has appeared, or is forthcoming, with The Rumpus, The Forge, Under the Gum Tree, Crab Orchard Review, and others.






When Uncle Sam shoots his gun, does a flag pop out? If so, whose flag is it, anyway?

When Uncle Sam shoots his gun, does his Cornucopian hat pop open? If so, do birds fly out? What kind of birds are they?

When Uncle Sam shoots his gun, does he lose his trousers? What else does he lose?

When Uncle Sam shoots his gun, does he ever hit the bullseye? How many Kewpie dolls has he won? Any wear a burka? A hula?

What kind of gun does Uncle Sam shoot? Without getting arrested? Without having his enlistment extended?

Is Uncle Sam related to Yosemite, by any chance?


by Michael Karl Ritchie

Michael Karl Ritchie is a retired Professor of English from Arkansas Tech University with work published in various small press magazines, including The Mississippi Review, Margie, OR Panthology – Ocellus Reseau. He has had three small press chapbook publications and Winter Goose Press has just published his collection of poems Ampleforth’s Miscellany (2017).

The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

        “What caravan did the Thousand Oaks shooter [terrorist] come from?”
                                                                        – Don Lemon (to Trump)


Recent news ended, Terrorists suspected.

Among the frenzied crowd cued

in Harvest Bakery’s lunch line,

a mother’s quietude commands.


Her shoulder-length brown hair frames a smooth ivory-skinned face;

her brown silk raincoat nearly camouflages

her severed left arm carried

invisible like the dead –


like the seen-unseen homeless?

Like the increasing refugees who,

after journalists air their plights, disappear fractured

by the next featured frame?


Faces press upon clay memory –

embed the snapdragon-black eyes

like those of this mother’s adopted

Ethiopian daughter who peers


from behind the silk rain of her mother’s coat – peers

from her perfectly proportioned Nefertiti face.

Peers have taunted her – have demonized

her alleged illegitimacy, yet her mother’s got sand – 


Huck Finn’s words spoken

of Mary Jane, kind to all strangers

(kind to all of us new in every moment.)

She has let go.


With invisible arm she marries the dead,

the disenfranchised, the migrants,

the unseen witness. Never choosing between keeping neighbors

or adopting daughters, she says yes to her love-life.


Hugging that yes her child tugs the sleeve hiding
the map of woe bound for imperfect paradise.


by Ann Reed

Ann Reed is a contemplative scholar, poet, and Chinese calligrapher-brush painter. She has taught English Literature and Theory of Knowledge in Malaysia, Ukraine, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and China, where traditional cultures value literature as good medicine. Her postdoctoral research studies the mending arts of Early Modern English and Contemporary Poetry. Her Chinese calligraphy and brush paintings have been exhibited in Portland, Oregon and at the Shenzhen Fine Arts Museum in China. Her poems have been published in various literary journals, one of which won the Fall 2018 Lazuli Literary Group poetry prize.

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