circle upon circle

Written by Emma Flynn
Art by Gryffyn M

THE GIRL: we’ve been here before- circle upon circle

THE INSTRUMENT: loop upon loop

THE GIRL: should i tell you a joke?


THE GIRL: a joke- a joke. what is a joke?

THE INSTRUMENT: a story. a collection of experiences. a tale with no end, loop upon loop, circle upon circle

THE GIRL: what do you want to know?

THE INSTRUMENT: what you want to tell?

THE GIRL: there are often dreams. i sit and wait for them to come and watch the world through the veil of my eyelashes. one flesh- one heart. a silence that chokes, that burns.

THE INSTRUMENT: the dreams

THE GIRL: torture- horror. beautiful catharsis in her wake, divination (prophetic whispers— sweet and honey-filled), bathwater in my lungs. my head is held under and i breathe through the burn, her grip is tender (bruising, violent) upon my neck, her hair is like honeysuckle

THE INSTRUMENT: is she murderous?

THE GIRL: sometimes. but death holds no finality (a door, a door)

THE INSTRUMENT: (a door, a door)

THE GIRL: it is sweeter still, the ripple of her mercy. the curve of her thigh, butter, soil, and teeth upon my spine. the tepid water below, the yellow ceiling above

THE INSTRUMENT: what is the worth of a soul?

THE GIRL: does she have a soul?

THE INSTRUMENT: maybe. maybe not. i will never know, you will never know

THE GIRL: do you have a soul?

THE INSTRUMENT: vice versa

THE GIRL: latin (a door, a door). it’s funny, dead languages haunt more than dead people

THE INSTRUMENT: the fathers of latin say god killed his son. they say he was the snake of sin, the father of monsters

THE GIRL: that’s wrong. they say god banished his son, and that he was once beautiful

THE INSTRUMENT: (a door, a door) there is no difference

THE GIRL: and eve was born of adam’s rib, where the bush always bore fruit for her and the garden always cradled her and the push of love always bruised her. the snake of sin offered her (a door, a door)

THE INSTRUMENT: her love was a fickle thing

THE GIRL: love has the taste of death to it. we were born to love, we were born to die. to love is to not be made whole from the half of another- love is far more violent than that. it’s to make yourself the half to make the other the whole. eve wanted to live, not to love

THE INSTRUMENT: there is no life without love

THE GIRL: yes there is: a long one

THE INSTRUMENT: does the woman in the bath live? does she dream?

THE GIRL: i don’t know

THE INSTRUMENT: how can one live without dreams? how can one dream without having lived?

THE GIRL: i knew once, but now i don’t remember. remembrance: rosemary. memory is a sicker thing than love; it warps the mind, it steals the soul

THE INSTRUMENT: and what if we have no soul?

THE GIRL: if we do it is the memory (a door, a door). it is the circle, it is the change. it is the garden and the going and the son and the sin. it is the rib and the woman and the sweet juice of the fruit. if we don’t, it is just as before: the woman and the bath and the drowning

THE INSTRUMENT: how can something steal and be at the same time?

THE GIRL: paradox: latin, god, love, sin

THE INSTRUMENT: i don’t understand

THE GIRL: how will you ever? we weren’t designed to be bigger than ourselves, to think beyond the drowning. you always ask how i drowned, never how i came to be in the bath. we were designed as eve and her doner: we live to die

THE INSTRUMENT: i can be taught. anything can be taught

THE GIRL: not everything. some things must be solved alone

THE INSTRUMENT: like what?

THE GIRL: what makes a door a door. what makes a god, a god.

THE INSTRUMENT: and the woman in the bath? who is she?


THE INSTRUMENT: god has drowned

THE GIRL: there is no difference 

THE INSTRUMENT: we’ve been here before, haven’t we?

THE GIRL: circle upon circle

THE INSTRUMENT: loop upon loop

THE GIRL: and what is the bath? and what is the woman?

BOTH: a door

THE INSTRUMENT (alone): a door


the cleaving of a woman

Written by Emma Flynn
Art by Kyle Johnson

there are sections
to the cleaving
of a woman;
rules must
be fulfilled

first, sever
her limb from limb,
but leave the
desirable parts:
the curl of the leg,
the swell of the breast,
the pout of the lips-
remove only what
you don’t like

second, slice
her quickly– collarbone
to navel;
watch her open
for you,
skin unfurling as though
she were the wings
of a butterfly;
the bust of a moth
(ignore any tears)

third, sew
yourself back to her,
as though you will
never be apart.
mold your bones
to hers–
lock your skin
to hers;
she can’t be yours
unless she’s tied down

fourth, wound
her to watch her bleed;
the way it trickles
the curl of the leg,
the swell of the breast,
the pout of the lip-
swear to her that
love splits, that love
she’s marvelous
only when she’s
she’s beautiful
only when she

fifth, marvel at your
the medical feat
of the woman
before you–
of the women who
are next.
take pride in being the
men of ruination;
it is the oldest tradition
we know


Written by Emma Flynn
Art by Elia Pellegrini

you can’t return the past–
can’t give away the ripples,
send back the years.
forget the winter &
the pain &
the laughter you leave
when you’re gone.

i follow behind you.
five years too late,
moving too slow
to catch up on
the things i’ve
you whisper dreams
and poetry- my
only muse is your

and there is the
spinning and the
numbness and
the smoke, and
there is the going home
the silent road;
the wide-eyed moon.

and there is the room.
dark and stagnant.
without memories of
bodies or dark hair
on my face.
there is love outside
of it- the image
of red lips of
long lashes.

the chemistry of
obsession is not
an exact science.
your palm on my
skin- your tears in
my mouth.
freckled shoulders,
olive skin.
to keep you
within my eyes–
to trap you in
my soul.

to lick your wounds.
to cower at the
horror of your beauty.
to let you ruin
the temple–
sanctify what i
have desecrated.
lay in my bed and
taste my sweat;
agony and ecstasy
are interchangeable.

and you’ll never
understand- for you
i’d massacre.
for you, i’d devour.
for you, i’d destroy.
for you, i’d ruin.
but you, i will love;
but you, i will hold.

the girl

Written by Emma Flynn
Art by Nikhita S

the heat has devoured me;
spat bones and carnage
and eyes that sink
beneath salt and brine
and sweat.
i invented some form of
some form of affection.
what will hold it
when i’m gone?

there is a girl there.
there is something she
didn’t survive.
i wonder how she would
feel- spread beneath
my fingertips.
the divine image of
a madonna.

i yearn for the past
like i am starved.
i am a wing- i am
a flightless, featherless

i am twelve. i am
i am left constantly
wanting, pleading for
a girl that is long

i have grown into
this vicious thing-
i long for teeth and claws
and a bite.
i am a storm- i am a
gale- a typhoon.

there is soft, there
is winter, sharp and
mean as she is.
there is wind and bristles
and there is cold- and
there is me.

i miss her- the girl.
gentleness, light.
i have turned to the
bitter morning- i
have left her


Written by Emma Flynn
Art by Eddi Agurrie

is it safe where you are? 

she dips a pen in ink and blots out the sun, golden fingernails chipped and sharp and beautiful and dangerous.

i don’t know.

maybe. safe; safer than before, safer than homes built on paper foundations, safer than the choking and the calling and the crying, safer than carpools between asphalt and open sky, safer than mirrored pasts and those who suckle and steal and hold childhoods captive between eyeteeth.

 safer than before, maybe.

but a victim is always a victim, and a veteran is always at war.

are we real?

Written by Emma Flynn
Art by Arawark Chen

the moon- amidst the shadow-cast rubble and glinting sweat of your brow; she sits and watches.
                   i taste you on my tongue and it is familiar, like blueberry tea in clinking wet china or your smile full of flowers or my throat enclosed in honey.
                   there is something in the spray of the sea that takes me back to you; the crease of a page of your favorite book, the smell of your cologne in the afterglow (i would drown in it to reach you).

the moon; she ebbs and flows, casting us in the afterglow of midnight.
                   i ask you are we real? and you laugh and tell me no. i smile as my hands enfold into yours, bare skin against the dewy grass. our legs are entangled. i can only hold you, yet i feel closer still.
                   rain smells sweet on the breeze- electricity or tenderness, love or fear. it’s all the same, like a memory long forgotten, like a moment stolen. i am swept under by a current and dipped beneath the waves. the water is like your kiss (sanguine) flushed with the thrill of a tight grasp. i melt into it.

the moon; she is singing a lilting melody (or languished lament)
                   if i die here, i will die beneath the rush of a bloated and sated love, two dancers in an empty room.

is she lonely? i am afraid, spinning barefoot on marble floors. a dagger glints in your eyes. no. she is alive.
                   we are asleep, entangled in lucid dreams. how long have i been dreaming? you are smiling, you remind me of everything i am and will be.

the moon; she is spinning.
                   we are lovers dancing in the truth of what we will never be.
                   were we ever real? i ask her, gasping.
                   no, she laughs like a friend, never.


Written by Emma Flynn
Art by Landon Paraenteua

dead, dying, will die. Your hands are charred beneath the fury of a tight-lipped girl
who was never meant to escape the fire. what survived but a man swathed in oil;
he is more animal than human, more boy than father.
he is no lamb, feral thing he is. blessed are those who hunger
and thirst for righteousness, he whispers between bloody sips,
for they shall always hunger.

who lit the fire? a match is just a match until it’s struck,
a girl is just a girl until she’s not. there were times that the father was
kind and good and you prayed to him on holy grounds,
and there were times that he strapped himself to your chest and called you home.
a lamb cannot be an ewe- a child cannot be a mother.

there are things you did survive: the burning, the aching.
there are things you never could.
you were born for the weight of the world to drag you down-
you were born for fire to feel like love.

q & a

Written by Emma Flynn
Art by Susan Wilkinson

                                                        q: what are you waiting for? a: for something.
                                                                                 for you to begin.
if you are unbearable,
then i am unlovable.
i have watched
this beginning before.
i have seen this
movie. i have.
if you are the deity,
then i am the disciple.
                                                      q: what is a disciple? a: the woman on her knees.
                                                                          the woman in your bed.
oh, you are wretched
oh, i am healed.
oh, i am
oh, i worship too hard
too hot, too heavy
too, too, too, too, too.
                                                         q: what is too much? when is too much? a: you.
                                                                              and now. now. now.
i confess: i rot within.
you confess: you like
the dead things.
i said i slaughter.
said i would kill
myself for you.
i am nothing but
beneath you.
                                                            q: what is carrion? a: the sins of the flesh. the
                                                                                            rapid decay.
i am murderous
for you. for you.
i would strip.
i would cradle.
i am ready for-
you are waiting
love. love. love.
why can’t you?
love me.
                                                              q: what is love? a: love is dying. dying and
                                                                                   waiting to die.
why do you carry
so many names?
lover. darling.
sinner. killer.
i mostly love
the worst of
i mostly fear
the best of
                                                                 q: what is fear? a: watching you dance.
                                                                                 wanting your smile.
don’t wait for
don’t move
without me. with
them. with her.
i wish your
didn’t last to
                                                                 q: what are bruises? a: declarations of love.

q: what are you waiting for?
a: for you to love me. please love me. please love me.

wings of wax

Written by Emma Flynn
Art by Peng Yang

be not afraid—for i sit with my god. a god of storms and broken things and bodies touching in dark rooms—the saint of tombs and kisses upon shoulders and gentle vows and salted lips.

lay drenched poets upon my grave, lace beauty to rapture and praise my dripping wax and feathered wings. i—the prince of greed, the son of sons, the lover of golden kings—was born unto this world to fly. to fall. to sink.

he had tasted like lemons, that lord of heat and sky. would that i were not a wounded child i may have loved that burning touch. what is the point of a love that does not scald? what is the truth of a kiss that does not maim?

the others flow like water—like waves greased with oil, like justice upon your tongue. what lord of sun would not spew practiced words from an empty mouth? what prince of fire would not burn homesick children up?

i dream of ships cast of sorrow, of longing that scales tower walls, of labyrinths built for hidden sins. i have always bled blue blood—i am weightless and buoyant and i have never learned to flinch from a searing touch.

the melting point of wax is the heat of his golden body upon mine. free falling steals away the breath of lovers entwined—do palaces of summer clouds glitter in his gaze? do seas below and skies above swallow those he swore to catch?

he’s poetry—the itch of sage upon my thigh and the lick of flames within my stomach. i tumble; low and rough; to a sea that will not cradle me. fire is for the lonely—the sea is for the damned. i am dark and drowned and powerless in the absence of his touch.

i died for love—the love of sinners the love of saints the love of men who croon and smother and dine on feathered wings that drip from their lips like wax. i lived to one day fall as i did—harsh and brash and staring at shrinking hands that had once promised to hold me to the sky.

be not afraid, for my god is with me now. the sea can never heal my burns, just as the sun will never heed my cry.

milk carton kids

Written by Emma Flynn
Art by Sushil Nash

a girl on a milk carton, baby dolled and pretty and kissable and dead. he took her away- momma’s making coffee; doesn’t anyone care that she’s gone? i flip her inside out and back again, milk seeps from my fingertips and pours from my eyes at the image of her scrawny body painted black and white.

the lake chills me good enough- a car on a beaten path clicks by and i try not to think of worms or maggots or printed faces flashing by on billboards. of girls in mary janes, of what they’d say at my funeral. so young, so bright. milk carton kid found buried.

dig into my skin. turn porcelain red, stain her vanity with tongues shaped like wordless promises. draw a man of larger wit than me, of men who bruise and kiss themselves bloody to swallow others whole.

a sow saunters by, she is fanned by inky lashes and lessons against bars after sundown. it rises like the moon, that desire for the dark. sharp air can cut up a lung quicker than a knife- dogs linger in alleys at night.

tell yourself it’s easy to forget. easy to sink into comfort when you’re no longer young and easy and so soft they can see you bruise. teach to me to drown in my own guilt- my kingdom for the soft mind of a girl, my life for the innocence of childhood.

bury her in a tomb of soil and leaves and senior pictures on the front page of the morning paper. her skin was never gray- eyes never cloudy- teeth never black. even bruised she smiles, even dead she breathes.

angels are born from violence; take the meat of love between your teeth and tear straight to the bone. love is a blue-blooded thing: violent men love in sicker ways. she likes to feel the gore of affection- what will destroy her but men who kiss gently?

he chars angel wings- snaps them between his forefinger and thumb and drinks the marrow with greedy tongue. her heart was soft between his lips, her blood was thicker than the pavement beneath his cracked fingernails.

everyone hears and no one listens. give me reason to hate like them, listen to mouths that can’t speak and lungs that can’t breathe. taste the sting of robbed girlhood, see faces with the memory of sin painted on milk cartons.

brutality haunts me; and the thought of girls in black and white, just like me.