perhappened mag, as always, never fails to raise awareness about current issues around the globe. For this issue, reader Idowu Odeyemi sheds light on the police brutalities in Nigeria. Learn more through this link provided by perhappened.
That said, let’s dive into issue 5 – LIGHTS OUT.
SECTION i: creature fear
Rising on the Nothing New – S. T Brant (poetry)
Brant’s poem starts with ‘Balk at the segue of darkness’ and welcomes the readers into an Abyss that the poem goes on to create. This poem takes the few moments of the transition & paints an immortal and interesting image of sunsets that ends in darkness. He says ‘nights have darkness that no destiny can meet’ reminding us that nothing competes with the darkness of the world.
On Hesitation – Taylor Byas(prose poetry)
I am fascinated by Byas’s poem. This prose poetry has two stories intertwined together. One, the simpler roadtrip with a boy, seeing barns, and driving through cornfields. The other, an inner monologue. Byas says she finally gets bored of cornfields and leaves the highway’s smooth to spit gravel on the wake of the Jeep. According to my interpretation, this symbolises giving in to the boyfriend’s idea of doing it ‘like in the movies’ while still debating inside. The poem portrays parallel views of an abandoned barn of a man and a woman. The former, excited for adventures without the fear of being trapped or hurt. The latter, taking in all possible scenarios that could lead to more trauma than the one she already carries. Byas ends with ‘We’ll laugh about this years from now.’ She doesn’t think they will. ‘Your hand in the dark not how I’ve always remembered it.’ A heart-wrenching ending to the poem.
WITH THANKS TO THE COUNTRY WEREWOLF – Isabel J. Wallace (creative non-fiction)
CW: implied abuse, body horror
Wallace’s skills to portray a powerful story using her medical knowledge is astonishing. This piece shows what recurring trauma does to the victim’s brain. “But this time I did ask for it (this time, this time) portraying manipulation by abusers. “The (movie) monster and its friends … take me to their favorite haunts, and I learn to linger with them in the hollows of trees”. This! One of the major after effects of abuse shown beautifully. Then, the movie monsters tuck her in bed and they wait for the ‘living monster to turn out the lights and together we (they) eat him … for a change.’ This can imply that the ‘living monster’ is now tasting a taste of his own medicine. This nightmare, she calls a dream, keeps her up & is cradled in her spine, therefore, showing that trauma says long after the nightmare has passed. She ends with ‘A friend asks why I love this genre, and I tell her that the monsters gave me grown-up teeth.’ This can be interpreted as how trauma can mature people faster in ways no one should have to learn to.
A thing that happens when you develop gills – Kristin Garth (poetry)
Kristin’s poem tackles the subject of sexuality and teenage life. The poem opens at a realisation that being different doesn’t always mean one will be loved. She proceeds with the unknown animal hidden under human hair which, in my opinion, depicts the confusion of gender. With these differences and confusions, she cannot hide ‘even in the dark, the indigo, sea green demarcations of neck not heart.’
This line takes us through the process of self-acceptance and exhaustion that comes along. She confides to her best friend about her body and sexuality but vulnerability is out of question. ‘Isolate to survive. Mutate teenage dreams of love, to stay alive, deprived girlfriends/prom dates, to breathe easier something wild immersed in loneliness, forever child.’ She ends the poem with these guidelines that are more of a manthra she repeated to herself during the horrifying teenage years. Literally, it seems that the poem is talking to us but really, this (seems to be) a recalled memory.
sue nocturne – Heath Joseph Wooten (poetry)
Wooten’s poem, written after Suzanne Vega’s Rusted Pipe’, takes us to a silent field with cricket around only. He splits the horizon to find three things remaining; an almost dead bird, time measured in strides, and an acorn pressing into his bare feet. The intentionally picked three unrelated objects open doors to a lot of possible interpretations of the poem. The rules are simple: he must run so fast that he forgets he has lungs & into a place so deep that his instincts can’t remember. The vine (tree) knows movement as a deer (a very beautiful metaphor) and we are founded in that movement. He says that once the fire is done breathing and we can flow smoothly through the vigil into a place where the bird is. The vigil, vine, and deer all rot but the bird, now dead, remains peaceful and silent. It seems to be the only being that survives inside the deep place & cuts it with its knife-like beak.
dormant – Lindz McLeod (poetry)
The poem begins with Maslow’s ‘Bring me a candle to light me to bed. Bring me some moondust to weigh down my lashes. Bring me an axe to sever my head. Bring me a soft wind to scatter my ashes.’ McLeod’s imagination takes simple actions and connects them to deadly thoughts. While raising a forkful, she sees herself choking alone, banging on neighbor’s doors & collapsing in on herself like an old star ( a beautiful comparison). While showering, she questions herself if she is having a stroke or just blinking too long. She slides the curtains in anticipation of grabbing hands and kisses from kitchen knives. This could be interpreted as remembrance of unconsented touching & the deadly results on one’s mind. While narrating her troublesome nights, she infers from her research that this insomnia may run in families or may develop as mutations in one’s body. It is followed by dead – the unfaithful cat- never to arrive. Waiting for sleep for too long, she’s lost interest in counting sheep and counts the times she’s laid awake. She ends her poem with the Maslow’s same four lines. My favorite part of this poem is the web-like connections drawn by McLeod to describe three different events. In my opinion, this poem is an important read for all those who do not understand mental illnesses.
3:03 – Tyler Turner (fiction)
The Mirror Game – Kyle Tam (fiction)
Tam’s fiction has mirrored texts. (SO COOL) The instructions are clear, one must wait to get chosen by The Mirror Image. The needed tools are a full-length mirror, candle, knife, and a sheet. First, hide the sheet in a safe place and then ‘scrub every last thought, every last trace of that place from your memory.’ This gives a hint that the opponent is a mind-reader. Then, be home alone or there will be dire consequences. This is a SPOOKY TURN. Once the full moon arrives, you reflect the moon’s light on the mirror to find your own reflection. You must walk backward through the mirror and take in every detail reflected ‘on the other side’. The objective is simple – find the hidden sheet but ‘the other side’ is dark & unsafe. The humans there only appear like the ones on this side. Once, the sheet is found, you must quickly return through the mirror into your world, cover the mirror and pray really hard for your wish to come true. Once, the incoming steps stop, your wish has been granted and life can go on but the mirror must always remain covered. Now, in the end, Tam mentions that upon losing, one must return quickly to their side and cover the mirror through the sheet or else, remember ‘There have been no recorded cases of what happens should a player fail to make it back from the other side.’
We Traced The Footsteps But They Led Nowhere – Iona Rule (flash fiction)
This flash fiction gave me chills. Rule’s storytelling skills are remarkable. “No matter how deep you breathe, it isn’t enough to satisfy your body’s hunger…” In my interpretation, this made a subtle remark about the greed we all possess despite trying/achieving a lot. The story is set in a frozen area which creates a strong impact. The reference to a cat hunting mice while discussing running away from ‘them’ is very clever. The ‘them’ it seems are inhumanly figures. While the person seems to be alone in the world, soon we see that they see a hut nearby. They begin to walk towards it & “You (they) cough, faint crimson spray on the ivory snow.” THIS is my favorite line of this piece. Ended with no destiny, the person has just begun walking & shapes gather behind them while laughter stalks their breeze. This is one of my favorite pieces in this Issue!
Seek – Pippa Russell (poetry)
Russell takes us to a suburban night in a forest ‘kept wild enough for young ones to explore’. The starting makes a subtle transition into the rules of this strange land. This piece reveals that while wolves don’t exist, rabbits eat their own young ones but never ours. It is hard not to think of my own Brown community, at this point,where the older generation picks on the younger one especially in Western countries but never kids from other cultures. Now, we are told that “adolescent inquiries will always feed the food chain”,talking about humans again. After the reassurance that no one’s to hurt them (humans) in this dark forest. They all become hunters playing a game of finding prey. They’re so terrifying to the forest creatures that even the crickets don’t dare sing. The haunting presence of adolescent humans is met with utter silence punctured with (frightened animals’) muffled breathing or the shouting of discovery (of prey). Ultimately, humans fulfill their greed & return to their modernity (their suburban homes). “What a strange thing to miss,the cold dread of knowing that carnivores prowled the same night as you did.” Thank you Russell for reminding us humans are quite stupid to think their actions don’t have consequences with this powerful ending!
SECTION ii: heart & home
Into the Dark – Ricky Ray (poetry)
CW: discussion of animal death
The poem sets in an outdoor place the author visits yearly. We’re told that cherry trees fatten with brag, a beautiful reference to the magnificent aging of trees. The author well establishes the fact that he & his dog, Addie, have a special connection. ‘the scent of my heart, raw in my hand, she’d eat it with haste’. This could be interpreted to the Addie’s impatience to show him her love. The poet loves her so much that, despite hating cold days, he waits for them because she loves them. The writer doesn’t want to die before the dog because he can’t bear the thought of her in pain. In the end, it seems that their love is so strong that they depart together. This poem is the softest portrait of death.
No Night There – Robert Hamilton (poetry)
WOW! I read this poem 5 times because it was just so well-articulated. Some of my favorite lines:
“I put it in a closet, no pun intended, but I still knew that same grin would be in the mirror if I peeled my lips back; I knew the dry bones dance when we dance.”
“The City of God has a plan, it’s white and shadeless. You can see for miles. No curtains, so everybody knows his neighbor’s business. They’re modest, they keep their skin buttoned to the throat.”
“What choice do we have? Are not the things we learn by feel in the velvet dark, under the stars, the things we truly love?”
Powercut – Tanisha Rao (creative non-fiction)
Blackouts have never been portrayed more beautifully. We’re taken into an Indian home where an old couple is trying to converse about BlueTooth, Wifi, modern terms the mother can’t make memory of. This hits home and I enjoyed this piece especially because I related to it so much. Rao says “Like badam rolling under sofas, the language of connection is lost.” ‘Lost connections’ can be interpreted in so many ways – connection between the couple, connection between child and parents, connection between copper wires, and connection between two neurons trying to make sense of new words in this old age. She ends this magnificent piece with “Dad doesn’t offer any explanations either. He drops words from his palm like pebbles. Unfinished conversations are easier to have. I notice that we let the words hang in these flippant flickers.” This ending leaves the story in mid-air like conversations in Brown families. Absolutely beautiful.
A Family Story – Even Williams (prose poetry)
An interesting take on the theme LIGHTS OUT. A family story centered around pie. What beautiful allegories! Some of my favorite lines:
“Dad pushes a knife into the dish for a slice and Mom’s belly begins to bleed: her navel has turned into a blueberry, which sprouts legs and leaves.”
“Dad comes back to the pie for the slice he’d left earlier. He eats it and his body reshapes itself. Dad is a very large mirror.”
“I eat it and Mom starts to age rapidly. She shrivels up like a raisin until she is so small and wrinkled, we can’t even see her to apologize. We shout I love you! loudly so that Mom’s small raisin ears might hear us. In the dark, Brother and I wonder what sun did that.”
Cemetery Precinct – Ben Kline (prose poetry)
“Mom calls the graveyard beside my school a cemetery precinct. Not because she works the polling station in the gymnasium every November, completing ballots for our uncles in the east line of faded tombstones. Or because winners are alleged to write history. For the family, she insists, stuffing sheets from her purse into the machine.” WOW! I’ve read these lines 10 times, they only get better. Oh, Kline’s wordplay makes death seem slightly less sad only to go on and make death seem normal. A beautiful imagery of ghosts voting for ‘Most Likeable’ or ‘Best Shade’ and signs of ‘Vote for progress’. Absolutely beautiful.
Landline – Renee Agatep (fiction)
SPOOKY. Read with caution.
Quarter past noon,Box tunnel,England, 1840 – Martha Lane (flash fiction)
CW: bombs / explosions, brief gore mentions
Lane drops us into a tunnel with a bunch of men digging inside tunnels with blasts going on outside. The narrator is an unnamed man who mentions his wife and baby once. It can be inferred that there is a warzone away from their home. John, the one person he names, takes care of him. And when Lane says, ‘We all know we cost too much to keep safe. Ribbons of light rain down from ventilation shafts, remind us that safety is possible. But to raise us out of the tunnel is too much an inconvenience, too much to ask.’ I screamed! The accuracy of these words! This flash fiction reminds me of the dystopian series I absolutely loved, ‘The Legend Series’.
Haibun In Which You Imagine Yourself as a Celestial Object – Yasmine Bolden (prose poetry)
Yasmine Bolden’s poem is powerful, it makes people stand up and LISTEN. I wouldn’t dare write a long review because this poem must be read and read and read again! Here are some of my favorite lines:
“…terse conversations with bearded men who laugh at lady luminaries and yet are enamored by your hunger to know.”
“they quip between bites. Maybe you’ll be a footnote in the revolutionary textbooks.”
“You will never understand why they characterize the man in the moon as a man. Why even the stars would betray the moon for acknowledgement by the sun.”
“You dream of beyonds:
Your husband is someone else
Moon walks earth, a woman.”
A Monsteriary – Megan Burns (poetry)
This is a powerful piece. So beautifully written. Here are my most favorite lines:
““cut through clipped wing, i am part eternity”
“to unspool memory
from scent, we be brief: time, a disruptive
metaphor i will erase the past
by going over and over it”
lights in every window – Jenny Mitchell (poetry)
The fragmented account of perpetual abuse presented in Mitchell’s poem is both shocking and admirably sincere. Through a series of unconventional stylistic devices, she targets the raw emotions of each flickering and horrendous moment. The word ‘no’ has never been more pertinent.
SECTION iii: into the unknown
Cryptosopophilia – Leslie Benigni (poetry)
Benigni’s poem delicately navigates the peculiar, yet somehow familiar passage of strangers, capturing the theme of the unknown in a beautiful and unique manner. It explores the rather magical moment when you experience and share in, though only for a moment, a small window of time in a life previously foreign. As Benigni herself writes, ‘It’s a peer into the life I’ve not led’.
Portrait of Aftermath – Lilia Marie Ellis (prose poetry)
‘Earth may always be otherwise’ comes the wondrously philosophical reminder from Ellis. In the midst of the deadened world of night, one does not expect such a powerful display of vitality as that shown in this poem. It prompts an appreciation for the chaotic fulfilment of life in its simplest form, with a liberating suspension of the complex. Within a few lines, a renewed and potent connection to nature appears. Even the opening phrase achieves this effect: ‘Night, with day behind, dredging up the sepia awe of being alive.’
Tonight the Moon – Lynn Finger (poetry)
Finger presents a stylistically modern approach to the harsh reality of grief through the ‘blistering rain’ and the ‘sway and tear’ of brambles. Heavily grounded in the natural and sensory world, the poem creates an immersive atmosphere to compliment and elucidate the abstract emotion that is devastating loss.
On our last night in the desert – Adrian Belmes (poetry)
Belmes’ poem acts as an astute creative comment on the suspension of disbelief between a couple near the end of a relationship. It is a clever though subtle exploration of universal romantic dilemmas, from ‘the ugly conversations that we covet at the end of things’ to the transient absorption of change. Belmes utilises wonderful imagery centred around the movement of sands beneath the water. ‘Do not disturb it, not just yet’ comes the memorable, tortured murmur of the protagonist.
A Patchwork Night – Maggie Maize (poetry)
Maize offers a fragmented insight into a hazy microcosm in the wilderness. The depiction of the crackling of ‘dry mouths’ against a barren and desolate night presents a captivating level of descriptive detail. In the thematic ambiguity of the poem, a myriad of ideas emerge. This is precisely what is interesting about it, since the isolation of the protagonist’s voice in the surrounding abstraction creates a slightly disorientating texture.
An aspen leaf – Nachi Keta (fiction)
Behind ‘An Aspen Leaf’ is a very distinctive literary voice. Through a wealth of synesthetic metaphors, Keta describes the journey of a solitary leaf as it weaves its way through a series of ironically human challenges: the threat of exile, the pursuit of individuality, rejection and aimlessness. It is a stunning piece of short prose, characterised by a fresh and vivid style.
Nyctophobia – Oluwafisayo Akinfolami (poetry)
In this dark, evocative poem ‘where shadows [offer] consolation for a wound that [isn’t] theirs’, one is led through a powerful poetic study on unheard voices. ‘I burn with the night; how many nights to burn with the night?’, comes the poignant question from the anonymous narrator. One is left wondering about the answer for a time afterwards.
Hic Sunt Dracones – Gretchen Rockwell (prose poetry)
In a short space, Rockwell draws astronomical symbolism to earth. It presents the reader with an alluring speculation on the realm of potentiality. The indefinite burning of the ‘white dwarf’ and the magical yet torturous ambiguity surrounding its existence is thematically astute, supported by a skilled creative edge.
Courting the Artificial Intelligence – Helena Aeberli (poetry)
In the exposition of her striking poem, Aeberli’s introduces the ‘christened intelligent’, a both majestic and disconcerting concept. The a posse ad esse of mutual though vague fears about the advancement of technology are captured with effortless poetic grace when Aeberli refers to humanity as but an ‘abstract construct it could abstract to dust… An intermittence of lives.’ There is something simultaneously alarming though admissible about the relatively inconsequential nature of a human life in the midst of a vast universe. The excavation of a complex set of philosophical ideas in combination with luscious references such as that made to the societal ‘katademos’ render this a truly impressive literary composition.
Grass Field – Ran Zhao (flash fiction)
When reading Zhao’s work, there is a fine line between enchantment and the gentle lull of words upon the page. ‘Grass Field’ scratches the surface of our world, but exists in its own dimension, once removed. The chase after the elusive nocturne ‘transmuted by faulty memory’ – that melody endlessly hounded by the figure of a girl forgotten in her fanatic hopes – is a commendable display of descriptive dexterity.