BY BETH GILSTRAP AND JIM WARNER
Dischord No. 15
You ride four hours to Appalachia in the back of a Volkswagen Scirocco with his bumper in your lap. Empty, the fresh varnish in the gymnasium soothes you back to after school practice, the bruises on your wrist from a thousand awful serves. After the show, all that’s left to inhale is back sweat and oily skin. You’re used to being surrounded by men. With your hair pulled tight at the base of your neck, rolled-up cargo shorts, and Sick Of It All t-shirt, you feel masculine, but there are always reminders. The four or five other girls in the crowd nod at each other, an unconscious check in. We’re all some band guy’s girlfriend. But these days, you’re vintage. Eldest of the pack. You’re tired. Tired of sleeping in vans, of sore necks and knees, tired of the sun blistering your shoulders when you run out of gas, of never having bathroom privacy even when you bleed, tired of studying during band practice just to be near them, tired of him leering at girls you think look more hardcore. Severe bobs. Undercuts. No make-up. In turn, you dream of booze-numbness, weed giggles, and long for the swish of silk skirts on your ankles—the dressings of a more delicate life.
anchors the bass drum
Dischord No. 60
Our last meeting was happenstance. I squeezed in next to you to order a drink at the bar. Tremont Music Hall in July. Only industrial fans to cool the former warehouse and the radiant heat of you dosing me into oblivion. You were doing well, playing guitar for a band on the rise. I wanted to touch your chin and ask you how you really were, make you tell the truth—you always said my eyes held a smack of voodoo—but I was with someone I loved then so I took my beer, gave you half a hug, and returned to him next to the speaker, every part of me pounding. You knew I took a razor to my thighs, my forearms. I knew you’d wind back to me no matter who you were with. I never believed all those times you said you’d die young though I knew how you fled, all you’d witnessed, though I’d seen your lips sliced by scissors, though we’d circled each other since I was fourteen. A few months later, your prophecy came true. I read of your death. The local arts-weekly reported it in two sentences, barely a newspaper inch. Overdosed in the back of a van on tour in Texas. I don’t know if your family brought you home or where you’re buried. Maybe your ashes are tossed behind a rock venue, long settled into gravel and grime, but I like to think of you spread across a farm in Union County, the ground finally holding you in its soft swell.
steady diet of nothing
in the cornfield
She was slicked down to her ankles with velvet, a bloodletting shade of red, powdered into oblivion. I stood behind, a bit to her left, always quiet as she gathered crowds. She’d gotten into Chapel Hill on cocaine and trucker speed, books and records and philanthropy, but along the way she realized she wanted less and less or more and more—she couldn’t tell which from what or why her dad’s mistress had knocked on the front door all those years ago, what her young sisters had against her. She’d taken Psych 101 at the community college, anxious to get ahead because that’s what she did. She beat everyone by talking about neuron plasticity and human thresholds and the feeling of a bee’s wing falling on her cheek from one centimeter above. She goddamn won with black lipstick and a new spider tattoo on her hand because fuck her mom’s sadness and her dad’s roaming dick and the better-looking siblings and expectations and the man and becoming a single working mother. She’d rather hitch to California, lie on warm concrete and drive false river canyons down south or breathe fog and weed and coffee and the rotting stink of harbor seals up north. She spoke lightning, sang sonic devastation, but Holy Mary Mother of—that dress—so I grabbed her hand and spun her until she stopped talking conspiracy and let go, our patent leather feet stomping and shuffling until sweat beaded on her upper lip and lined the back of my shirt.
homecoming dance treatment bound
Beth Gilstrap is the author of I Am Barbarella: Stories (2015) from Twelve Winters Press and No Man’s Wild Laura (2016) from Hyacinth Girl Press. She thinks she’s crazy lucky to work as Fiction Editor over at Little Fiction | Big Truths. Her work has been selected as Longform.org’s Fiction Pick of the Week, nominated for storySouth’s Million Writers Award, Best of the Net, and The Pushcart Prize. Her work has appeared in Re:AL, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, The Minnesota Review, Literary Orphans, and Little Patuxent Review, among others. She lives in Charlotte with her husband and enough rescue pets to make life interesting (or flat out insane).
Jim Warner’s poetry has appeared in various journals including The North American Review, RHINO Poetry, New South, and is the author of two collections (PaperKite Press). His latest book, actual miles, will be released in 2017 by Sundress Publications. Jim is the host of the literary podcast Citizen Lit and is a faculty member of Arcadia University’s MFA program.
Art: “Lazos de Sangre Santo” by featured artist Salina Almanzar
Salina Almanzar received her Bachelor of Arts at Franklin and Marshall College with a double major in English Literature and Studio Art in 2013 and completed her Masters in Arts Administration at Drexel University in 2017. Salina’s current body of work examines identity, specifically the complexities of Latinx identity. Salina questions how an individual can reconcile history, memory, culture, and with their identity. Her work melds together elements of her personal understanding of her Latinx identity with historical iconography. Through the use of repetition and layers, Salina visually articulates the struggle to fit into one’s cultural identity. Her work also uses icons from her from her Puerto Rican and Dominican background, imagery from childhood memories, borrowed images and references to historical texts, and self-portraiture. Immigration holds a strong grip on Puerto Rican and Dominican identity and lasts for generations. Ultimately, Salina hopes to express the bittersweet nature of being both Latinx and American, where one feels simultaneously rooted yet displaced by their culture-Ni de aqui, ni de alla.