Photo credit: Dina Stander. Listen to Dina read “not fucking around” and “dressing to feel pretty in gimp city.”
not fucking around
I harbor a concern that when
I build a ritual fire for year’s end
setting transformational heat
to what I want to leave behind
once that fire snags my rage
the whole of everything will
burn to the ground
and I don’t wanna be some
feel better phoenix rising from the
ash heap of this terrible year
facing the dangers coming I’m
gonna need the ancient gnarly
not fucking around dragon
woken and hungry for justice
I’m gonna need wings to fly
dressing to feel pretty in gimp city:
1. lower your expectations
2. love your reﬂection, there is no best angle for naked in the full length mirror
3. avoid uncomfortable clothing, it will make you miserable, which never feels pretty
4. choose colors that make you smile on the inside
5. no you do not need to give your hair a trim, put the scissors down
6. breathe, it brings oxygen to your brain and apples to your cheeks
7. fake it
8. limp with ﬁnesse
9. decide it doesn’t matter
10. admit it does
11. nothing needs to match the cane
12. wear a pad for conﬁdence, only your yoni knows
13. breathe some more
14. keep changing clothes until you know you will feel like yourself
15. unadorned is better than clumsily accesorized
16. let your beauty be seen (only) as much as you want
17. put a stone in your pocket for ballast
18. pretty does not equate to ‘ﬁxed’, so yes, you can bloom
Dina Stander is a western Massachusetts based poet, End-of-life Navigator, burial shroud maker, and practitioner of radical kinship. Her work has been published in Naugatuck River Review, Silkworm, Breath & Shadow, and various places online. Her first collection of poems, Old Bones & True Stories, was published in 2018 (Human Error Publishing) and a collection of prose and essays is imminent. You can learn more about her projects at www.dinastander.com
when you give over
your individual beauty, suppress your
stride, battle flesh and lose
you murder a part of me
spare a thought for girls – we
get our story questioned and
anxiety over whether our imposter syndrome is worth it
for the final moments of verdict
you’re there but not wanted
the good and bad?
i look a bit lost
i think i’ve lost enough
i’m left a failed has been
we are everything
I love to write poetry about who I am, but when it comes to neurodiversity often words fall short, so I thought I’d lend the text from elsewhere to build these poems. They are about how difficult it can be to get diagnosed or taken seriously as an autistic woman or femme-aligned person (as I am), and how we are often told to be quiet, to keep things inside, to normalise ourselves and act accordingly. These feelings also intersect with my understanding of being a genderqueer lesbian—it’s not so much just about being neurodiverse in particular, but navigating the world as a queer disabled person people assume is a woman.
Chloe Erin (she/they) is a depressed disaster dyke currently residing in Cardiff. They make poems about mental illness, social justice and politics, being queer and autistic, loving their wife and a myriad of other things. Follow them on Instagram and Twitter.
Indentation in my chest, I’m sew(n) together now.
Did you see the surgeon saw my rib in half?
Where is the missing piece? Could I have a funeral
or wake of ash when not under anesthesia?
I wish I could carve runes in the bone, a story
carried deep, and summon Eve who will love me
more than Adam because I’ll give her agency
and apples and all the pretty red things I possess —
like the four-inch scar on my chest I dedicate to her.
A film of soreness settles onto my skin (absorbs) reels into my neck and head. I watch fan blades blur into the ceiling as ache arches through my system. I’m having a dream of agony with open eyes and clenched teeth. My body mingles with my sheets and leaves impressions. Leaves outside my window are falling, falling. Sky crashes through my roof and dances on my scalp. Me, Atlas-hat askew, avoids the glare of sunlight heating my angry bones like copper coils. Chronic: This pain-filled horizon is forever. I bury myself in piles of blankets and scream for release until a flock of mother birds alight on a power line across the street and sing me into uneasy rest. Winged notes carry me from myself.
Jennifer Ruth Jackson is an award-winning poet and fiction writer whose work has appeared in Red Earth Review, Banshee, and more. She runs a blog for disabled and neurodivergent creatives called The Handy, Uncapped Pen from an apartment she shares with her husband. Follow her on Twitter @jenruthjackson.