[Act 1, or Maybe Always:]

Written by Trini Rogando
Art by Roberto Nickson

[YESTERDAY: i framed a sunset at dusk—
pretended i could fill our between-difference
with light diffused to smog. two
actors in surrender, scared to wake
from our gorgeous fermata. floors
swelling with script; shining and scoured.]

[TONIGHT: we release ourselves to the absence
of thought, or maybe always. we believe that
the view was composed for us, that a crack
in foundation is only stage-makeup, that a
headlighted deer stomps on a snake
as a destiny, through and through.]

[OUR: bodies are cities, all soft mouth
and golden stars, romantic in the
dark and flared crannies made conscious.]

[WE: are nothing without the
silver-tongued screen. we do not want to wake.]

[WE: are scared of the world winding down.
soft eyes gleaming: a lighthouse or a lamp.]

peasant’s lament

Written by Trini Rogando
Art by Ali Hadbe

sometimes, good things happen
                   to me, not by me—no, these
trembling hands could never quite match
                   fate’s steady threads. disappointing. a
lack, a deficit, pretending to whet a blade &
                   wield a pen. so what, possibly, now.
these skin-strings ache for relief: suspended,
                   bleached and scrubbed to perfection,
or so i think. but really, i could never truly
                   adopt majesty; pride is something reserved
for queens, the loved, the girls with their voices
                   and temples of grain. reality is the
rain shadow of a mountain, its mouth so
                   mournful i don’t bother to look for
crop. in purpose comes power, in purpose
                   comes failure, and yet when i feel
my words still spill in whiteness & pearl.
                   unthreaded, or so i dream. so i will
mount the plow. put needle to cloth and poem
                   to page. take this small existence and
rise, hungry and shaking but crowning some-
                   thing good. faraway, half dead, fate says
keep going, keep going, i’m waiting—

In Autumn

Written by Trini Rogando
Art by David Bartus

child, harvest moon skin is like paper so
come here, quickly. before my name dissolves
on time’s tongue like wilting communion. watch how
the leaves stumble to scrape beside the cattails
& cry. watch how i weep in turn, throat rusted, palms
pressed against bark running red. we must swiftly
learn baptism like the curves of earthen skin—
doom renamed blessing. fall aches so much like
a crucifixion, & men applaud the diminution. look.
i try to string light through my palms instead of
nail but it whispers away, dripping gold. wrinkles
streak the dawn & stretched thighs echo rushed
canyons gaping, begging for blizzard. the frost
burgeons, a current of frog-croaking slickness.

child, you will follow my lead one day. but for
now i christen you a lamb still straddling sun-
beams. a spear whetting yourself on the rock
of returning spring. oh, how i wish to laugh
& laugh in chorus with greenery. instead,
i tangle burning hands through wildfire hair,
matted & amber. a punchline. i tilt on a swollen
axis, heavenly body larger than humor. there is
jaggedness in time rotting & i am privy to it.
there is glory in aging but i have not yet found its
scripture. in the end i can only idolize myself:
a goddess of autumn, fated to rule. take note—
smell incense poured into lungs like summer &
rake glowing fingers through my skin

Rhetorical Analysis of an Antelope’s Silence

Written by Trini Rogando

The author begins with a personal anecdote.
                   My baby, you always ran so fast and jumped

so high—you’ve gone further than I can follow.
                   As she speaks of your dreams, rounding her syllables

so closely to the way you did, it’s almost
                   as if you guided her ethos yourself. But see,

the thing is—you didn’t. You didn’t say goodbye or leave
                   a note; no way for anyone to sing your sense into prose.

When you threw yourself off of that dusty overpass, the
                   rest of us were rendered hyenas. Wild and hurting

and desperate for any last scraps of you. Reliving memories
                   again, again, again. If I squint, perhaps I can find glory

in our hungering persistence. The circular narrative
                   in wondering why. Outside, the bruised tinging

of a new dawn is choked by the haze of metaphor,
                   as if your spirit diffused into its bloodshot

light, and we salivate at the view. Later our gazes
                   eat your casket raw, throats brimming

with silent bile. Bile analogous to words.
                   Words analogous to love.

Love analogous to rescue, and even the
                   small brains of yearning jackals

know that rescuers would be worshipped, not regretful.
                   In actuality it is our prayer slathered over your

limp form, our trembling analyses jabbing at your
                   overcast soul, guessing at reconciliation.

In your mother’s eulogy she juxtaposes grief with
                   celebration. How contrary. How parallel

and how structured. She is the author and she is trapped
                   in a cage of ink and skin, pawing at your obituary,

snarling at your silence until it falls into form. But if
                   one strips away the rose clouds of imagery and

death, the dawn is simply a dawn and the questions
remain questions and no essayist can really

find meaning in your stillness, though we all keep clawing.
                   Oh—perhaps this is what remains, regardless

of species or sky: repetition. The daily waking up to a world
                   of lack. To the absence of answers on your breath.

Maybe one morning we will find sanctuary in this
                   continuance, and your reasons will fall like stars

from where you leapt to scrape the sun. Until then, we squint,
                   again, again, again.

you will never be here again.

Written by Trini Rogando

the broad swathes of the dark trickle into sullen dawn 
& i wonder how you haven’t disappeared. between
heavy lids you seem larger than mortal—
but i don’t want to hear about the lives you’ve sipped before me
or the flushed worship of other, briefer nights.

things look so otherworldly 
in the mornings. beautiful to fade.

you balance a yolk of wisteria between
those shoulder blade curves—angel wings,
arcing up towards the sun. ambrosia takes a 
different form in the goldenrod bed, presented
as a choice: cupbearer or bare-chested.

what happens after this suspension of sky?
what happens when we stretch past these stolen hours?

i pretend to understand why you choose to linger,
why you choose to inhale the last smoke of
dusk like a scrape of bloodied rust. 
i pretend you like the taste of starlight on your tongue,
revelling in the slow decay of cusped bodies; gaping mouths. 

i pretend you stay for me, but we both know—
you will never be here again.

Signal Search

Written by Trini Rogando

text from Sprint, says the 
number you are trying to text is 
out of service, says the person 
you are trying to reach didn’t 
bother to keep in touch. 
though: it’s not as if you 
expected anything different, 
though: you once cut open your 
lungs to bleed their oxygen. 
still, you can’t help but think 
it was intentional; their finger-
tips turned gossamer still 
burn like bruises, swallowing 
time & distance in seconds.

remember: longing is a 
one-sided exchange.

it is as if your skin was branded 
as a missing poster, shedding 
whispers of words in the sun.
as if your soul was a collection of 
lost people that left without goodbye—
lost people that think a
text from Sprint is better
than a text from nobody;
that being disconnected
still means being alive;
that being alive can still happen 
while part of you is gone.


Written by Trini Rogando – Instagram: @trini.writes

we are waking at dusk to
                   be filled with the

cheshire light of stars. we are 
                   pretending we can see the sun

until morning, waiting and waiting,
                   waxing and waxing—

none of us can really grasp a difference,
                   but still we squint. truly, 

we are never honest. the only
                   candid person we know lives

in the future—and we are empty and yearning
                   for her always—but really 

she has been dead for years. we are 
                   scrambling through the dirt,

ground like rodents, and we are scrabbling
                   for blooms of breath in the phosphorus.

time is like this: a garden of gravesoil, shrouded by
                   ghosts whose tongues are dipped in sunlit gold.

we are trying to ignore our throats burning with
                   wrong words unsaid, our wrong lives living in the

wrong time; we keep rising and rising to 
                   meet this feigning dawn

that has never really chosen us back.

Self-Portrait in the Post-Apocalypse

Written by Trini Rogando – Instagram: @trini.writes

I find the Polaroid camera on a Catholic altar,
as if someone left it as a tribute for their God

rendered radio-silent. Men weren’t always so desperate for a sign 
of divinity, but most things have changed: I used to hate

mushrooms; now they are all that tinge my tongue. In
the early days we begged and lauded; now anyone left sees

that God is dead. Through all this, still the mushrooms prevail. 
How was I to know that dirt warbles salvation in fork-tongued sulfur?  

That these blooms of nuclear bile streaming from my throat
only prolong a doomed marathon, heaving and panting? 

I take a picture to see myself—the Narcissus of the apocalypse, 
a portrait brimming in false perpetuity. It is easier to stomach 

watery myths like these; unlike God, they cannot fail. 
Every night, strokes of twilit dreams paint themselves across

the dark anew— a constancy for disbelievers who still wait to be
revered . Long-ago myths say the Greek pantheon formed 

the greatest heroes’ souls into constellations, lining their glory
in watercolor from one point to the next. Today, tangerines 

erupt in sweet mushroom clouds from the new-age
Vesuvius, twenty-six miles thrice over. I wonder if

the stars look down at this scorched carnage and laugh. If they see
my portrait, my paltry attempt at immortality, and mock.

Underfoot, dirt-covered mushrooms burgeon 
from atomic gravesoil. I force my fingernails to 

grope at kinship until we are locked in an embrace. 
Killer and killed. Life and death. Faith and…

I bite at sprouted ambrosia to live; I tempt the gods and
become sacrilege in a world of lack. Perhaps if I squint

I can make out a haze of their trochaic form in 
the fertile prose of my curves. Maybe they share

in this portrait, sculpted to perfection, 
sanctitude burning stain from blurred film. I would

not be surprised: last night the wind smelled of orange rind
and the starlit ground grew pomegranates from ash. I fancy

my breasts to be boons, this corporeal garden a held-breath Pompeii.
Stygian flowers again take root in my fungal throat, but

folly permeates through time too. Remember: folly
in Troy was called self-preservation. Hector ran 

thrice from the grief of Achilles in 
wisdom, not cowardice. Heaving still, I toss

the picture aside, declare this grave a temple,
trace my soul into constellations with a divine hand.

the words we never said

Written by Trini Rogando – Instagram: trini.writes

for rishubh and james

before the after, we were neither
all at once. 

we meet for the first time on this page,
tangled within created syllables
that pull at our hair and tug
at our jeans. strangeness hangs
between us like a hospital curtain
or the velvety fabric of spacetime—
impenetrable and thick, but with
ink our skin melts into chorus and our
hearts are free to warble matching tongues. 

i ask:
can you breathe there?

you say:
these twilit spaces sigh deeply,
expanding light upon bruises of stars
that heal with the warmth from earthen blooms.

you like the wordplay of poetry, the freedom
and detachment of singing your soul into prose.
you scribble your mark all over this paper stomach
and birth creation in its fullest—

i think you do. i squint, hard as i might
through the haze of metaphor and death,
trying to recognize your form in stanzas
that are three times removed from their fathers.

i wish i knew your wishes,
for i could then pen them down 
with confidence that the shooting stars
would smile at my trill and diction.

instead, this greeting never occurs,
yet the farewell lingers: a bated
caesura lisping
                           what if,
                                          what if,
                                                         what if.

extra! extra!

Written by Trini Rogando – Instagram: trini.writes

tw: brief mention of bodily harm

read all about it!
the extraordinary murder of
Mister Exceptional, see the
account of his execution detailed
here completely in black and white!

all things expire with time,
and i suppose this mister
was no exception. if you
ask me, folks, it was the
expressionless wife. such

excretance she is,
the scum of the earth, no?
examination revealed a knife shoved
deep within his rose-red throat, his
trust exploited with an evil, loveless

smirk. there’s no other explanation—and
you readers will gladly lap it up!
grief made exhibitive and death
made extravagant—what did you say?
no, no exaggerations here. the press

is the truth and the exactors are us.
these letters we print speak of existence
itself, the hallowed relationship between
writer and reader, word and mouth,
and our sales forever exceed 

expectations, right? with us, you can exhale 
expertise like the exhumes of candor, like 
the last vestiges of Mister Exceptional
who is dead by the way and whom you must
read all about in today’s paper, you must—

extra! extra!