Sarah Bogosh: An Interview

By Annie Zidek

Sarah Bogosh is a Chicago-based illustration artist, who often forgets she’s 26. Her repetitive drawings deal with the burden and beauty of carrying pain, through animal motifs. More of her work can be found on Instagram under the name @badponies.

Photo by  Jinno Redovan

Photo by Jinno Redovan

Have you grown with your work over the years or has your work grown with you?

I think if you look at the work, and if you know me personally, you can definitely tell that the work has grown with me. It’s always a reflection of the things I’m feeling at that specific moment in time or a reflection of things I’m going through. [That] influences changes in imagery and tone.

How have you seen your work evolve over the years?

I’ve worked with a lot of different mediums over the years. I studied printmaking in college at the Kansas City Art Institute and had access to inks, presses, and all kinds of expensive equipment. The year I went to college was the first year that they discontinued the illustration department, so when it came time to pick a major I ended up in the printmaking department instead. It worked out because printmaking is very heavily drawing and pattern based and besides learning the process, we were basically allowed to do whatever we wanted. Sculpture project? Sure. Sewing? Go for it. Which was great because I mostly just wanted to draw and

I was also a really bad printmaker. I didn’t have the patience or precision. I would just do stuff and be like, “I know this is the wrong way to do it but let’s just see what happens.”

I was definitely influenced a lot by the repetition of the process of making multiples. I was allowed a ridiculous amount of studio space and by my senior year we were all making these enormous drawings. After I graduated the only space I had was the living room of my apartment, so I started embroidering because it was portable and I could watch hours of TV while I worked on projects. Even once I moved back to Chicago I kept doing needlework because I was living in the suburbs and working two jobs in the city and commuting. It was easy to work on public transportation. Eventually I got impatient with that and went back to drawing and I am a much happier and less irritable person now. I usually work in pen and ink, markers, sometimes paint and pencil. Drawing is a lot more of an instant gratification process. [It’s also] easier for me to manipulate. I am both impatient and a control freak so I think it suits me best and makes me happiest.

What got you into creating art?

It was the only thing I was actually good at. I’ve been making things for as long as I can remember. I used to have to go to work with my mom and I would sit and color or draw for hours. I was lucky enough to have other artists in my extended family who encouraged me to keep doing it and the support of some really great teachers along the way.

Photo by Jinno Redovan

Photo by Jinno Redovan

Would you consider any of your work confessional?

I wouldn’t necessarily say that of my current work, but when I was doing a lot of embroidery I would give the pieces stupid long titles that had very little to do with the piece but would blurt out my personal problems, mental health issues, [and] guilty feelings about things that were happening in my life at the time. I had titles like, “All the Previous Homes (And All My Laughing Damage Deposits)” or “Signs Point to Yes (But This Headache is Well Deserved)”. Always along those lines. I think if any of that still exists in my current work, it’s much more buried and veiled.

I'm big on pattern in my work, partly because I usually dress myself in patterns and partly because the repetition is calming to me. My life and my art are always intertwined. I'm in a band and I write songs that I make drawings of or I make drawings and give them titles that I end up writing songs about and then I tattoo them on my body. I’ve always, always used animals in my work. I’m bad at drawing people and I’m just a scowl-y person. I like animals better than I like people. I think using animals makes some of my themes a lot subtler and beautiful for someone to look at or stomach, rather than using people—especially with the ideas of self-harm that have been pretty present lately. A lot of it deals with pain, carrying it with us and piling it on—just really dealing with over the top mental health issues while still trying to just fucking stand up and keep going. And there’s beauty in that too. I don’t want to be super blatant with it because it’s so personal and I still struggle to be open about those things in general.

What inspires you to create?

I’m really inspired by everything I see around me on a daily basis. I’m constantly looking for imagery on my way to work, on the bus, reading— I listen to people speak and catalog things I like to use later. My brain doesn’t turn off very often. Whatever comes out on paper is all of that filtered through my personal feelings and experiences. I’m trying to collage it all together to make sense of where I’m at. It’s sort of a weird way for me to organize myself into the world.

Photo by Jinno Redovan

Photo by Jinno Redovan

Tinder and Casual Sex: The Social Double Standard for the Sexes

By Annie Zidek

Courtesy of  Giulia Bersani

Courtesy of Giulia Bersani

Sex has always been coupled with social scrutiny, both separating agency from sexuality and scrutinizing people who personally partake in casual sex. Today we see this through the perpetuation of double standards for the sexes with dating apps. Even though the apps are meant to be a level playing field for the sexes sexually, there is still a major disconnect between what men and women can ask from casual partners.

Now, it’s important to realize sex wasn’t always as normative as it is today. The Social Purity Movement, which moved sex from its religious context and into the secular sector in the late nineteenth century, was essentially the middle class policing sexuality and regulating it socially. The Social Purity Movement advocated a single view of morality for both sexes, critiquing men—married and single—who had sex with prostitutes outside of marriage reinforcing young women’s purity for marriage.

Not only was the Social Purity movement the start of the modern regulation of women’s sexuality, but it was also brought sex into public eye. Even though the movement consequently resulted in years of the push and pull of sex in the public eye, it was a necessary step towards its destigmatization. Thankfully, we have had feminists throughout history who have championed the efforts to normalize sexuality and its presence in our everyday lives.

In fact, feminism’s push for the normalization of casual sex pushed back the age of marriage. An Atlantic article from 2013 notes, on average, American women are ringing the bells of their first marriage at 27. So now your twenties are the time to take advantage of your own sexuality comparatively to when marriage was the standard. So now young people the cusp of adulthood engage in hook up culture and casual sex.

Though painted as a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah, hook up culture is meant to be the encouragement of sexual exploration with respect towards yourself and your partners. Casual sex is good; it’s beneficial. A cornerstone for third wave feminism, casual sex is meant to be empowering; it is about the self—with respect towards your consenting partner(s), of course. It is taking control of one’s own sexuality and expressing it liberally. Casual sex is about the self, about owning one’s sexuality. And dating apps cater to this sexual liberation while simultaneously feeding into social currency, the idea that social apps create your sense of self worth.

Dating apps like Tinder allow people to connect with others and meet up do what they want, no strings attached. It gives people a sense of sexual freedom, of agency and control. Casual sex isn’t harmful if done in a safe way. In her Ted Talk, sex psychologist Dr. Zhana Vrangalova even says casual sex is beneficial: The day after casual sex, most people experience positive emotions: adventuresome, pleased, desirable, and excited, for example. She also says casual sex encourages communication, which adds to a heightened sense of self-awareness.

But that’s the hypothetical, and we live in a world where the hypothetical isn’t necessarily the reality.

Nowadays, dating apps perpetuate slut shaming and double standards and, in turn, create an atmosphere of social inequality and an unsafe environment for casual sex, especially for women.

Apps like Tinder are meant to level the playing field—to allow men and women to find partners without shame through new technology. But it doesn’t. There’s a discussion surrounding the topic. In my History of Sex class, we discussed how women knowingly put themselves in positions where they can be harassed online through these apps: men use dirty pick up lines, dehumanizing the women and seeing them as something to be won.

One of the girls in my class, identifying as bisexual, opts to match with both men and women on Tinder, and she sees the striking differences in the communication from the genders: the women say, “Hi, how are you?” or “Hey, what’s up?” whereas the men can blatantly say, “hey wanna fuck?” There is a problem within the social currency of online dating. Women are harassed through chats on Tinder, and they know this. In a way, by using the app, they are submitting to (and expecting) harassment from the some of the men that use online dating apps. They’re willingly putting themselves in this position because they are so used to it offline.

Calling back on the Social Purity Movement, there still is a double standard for men and women when it comes to casual intimacy. Sure, a resurgence of “slut shaming” for men has come up like the word “fuckboy,” but women have had years—their own history, even—of sexual oppression and slut shaming:

Prostitutes were blamed for venereal disease throughout history (during the late nineteenth century, during World War I and II).

In the early 1900s, promiscuous women were often deemed feebleminded when institutionalized, and they were often sterilized.

Until the pill in 1960 and Roe v. Wade in 1973, contraceptives were scarce, and abortion was illegal, so women went to great lengths to terminate their pregnancies, ultimately hurting themselves.

When the pill came out in 1960, only single women in the cities and married women had access to the contraceptive, limiting access to people who needed it.

In 1991, people questioned the validity of Anita Hill’s case against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas regarding Thomas’s sexual harassment towards Hill.

(To name a few.)

Basically, women have faced a series of micro and macro aggressions throughout history, and today it translates into their treatment in online spaces. Their social currency is comprised of hyper-sexualization and societal expectations, which some men then warp and use to harass these women on online platforms. Sexual self-awareness, which can be achieved with the help of Tinder, is stripped away because men are dominating dating apps and leaving women in the confines of their gender roles and stuck in within the parameters of double standards.

In order to change the way we talk online, we must first reform the way we interact in person. While there are steps being taken, there are still many more steps to take:

Stop slut-shaming women. You cannot make women feel guilty for the number of sexual partners they have. They have agency and have ability too many sexual partners, and you cannot shame them for that.

Do not shame women for being blunt and assertive; she’s not a bitch: she knows what she wants. She is self-aware. If anything, she should be commended for

There needs to be more portrayal of single women in media. Hollywood needs to produce pieces of work where women are not chasing down lovers, where women are not relying on men emotionally and sexually. Literature needs to publish works that portray women as single women without a subplot of love interests. Get movies and lit to pass the Bechdel test.

These are only three ways to help revamp the way we look at women in regards to their sexcapades, two of them being moves you can make. Though small, they can start with you and help change the bigger picture of the way we treat women.

As for the portrayal of single women, Hollywood should make moves to release movies that show women as single women—happy ending or not. They should portray real women. If Hollywood, an influential industry, can change the way they see and show women, then the way women are viewed and treated as single people can change for the better. They can be seen as people that have autonomy and sexual expression.

Give women the sexual freedom they deserve.

Chance the Rapper Speaks Out Against 'Chiraq,' and Lee Fires Back

By Annie Zidek

Courtesy of Twitter/  @pitchfork

Courtesy of Twitter/ @pitchfork

On the night of November 24th, Chicago finally released the police dashcam from the shooting of Laquan McDonald, which clearly showed McDonald shot down mercilessly sixteen times by a police officer. As a result, people walked in protest against the city’s (as well as the nation's) institutionalized racism. Meanwhile, miles away in New York City, Spike Lee casually discussed his upcoming movie Chiraq on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, adorned in all of his accessories.

Clearly, Lee is a provocateur and is known for pushing boundaries with his work. But with his new movie Chiraq, Lee has gone too far. While the movie seems fitting and socially aware in light of the recent gun violence--both at and within the Black community--the movie almost seems to make a mockery of the gun murders in Chicago.

The title Chiraq in and of itself stirs the image of a violent and bloodstained Chicago, which Lee touches on in his interview with Colbert.

"Local Chicago rappers came up with that name and felt that, not all Chicago, but the South side Chicago, is a warzone, and so they feel, probably even today, that it's safer in Iraq than it is on the Southside of Chicago," Jones told Colbert. He's right. The gun violence in Chicago is a grim reality, leaving some parts of the city truly feeling like a war zone.

Chiraq is based on Lysistrata, a Greek myth wherein the female protagonist bands all the women in Greece together to withhold sex from their men until peace was achieved. The result: the end of the Peloponnesian War. In Chiraq's modern translation, the women in the movie decide to abstain from sex in order to force the men to stop the violence, shootings, and murders that are happening in their city.

Okay, let’s sit back and think about this: Lee really thought he could urbanize an ancient Greek myth successfully by relating it to a very real modern issue (the war-like gun violence in Chicago) with rhyming dialogue? He thought the people of Chicago would totally appreciate him relating their losses of sons and fathers and uncles and friends to a myth revolving around sex?

Many people have spoken up about the absurdity of Lee’s film, including the born and raised Chicagoan Chancelor Johnathan Bennett, better known as his stage name Chance the Rapper. He called out Chiraq on Twitter, vocalizing his frustration and disdain towards the insensitive movie.

Chance the Rapper is unlike any other rapper. He is revolutionary. He’s impacted inner city kids through his personal musical narratives, he’s reached the suburban teens during his performance at Lollapalooza in 2014, and is now touring all over North America. His music is an orchestral celebration of life, a visceral take on Chicago living. He cares about his fans, and shows this by making all of his songs free on Soundcloud.

With a prominent place in the rap community, Chance the Rapper can give a voice to the voiceless affected by troubling circumstances. One issue in which he cares deeply about is the gun violence affecting the city of Chicago. So it's no surprise that the representation of gun violence in Lee’s Chiraq deeply upsets Chance. The 22-year-old has advocated anti-gun violence ever since his music has given him a platform to do so.

He uses his music as a tool to raise awareness to this issue. In the third track on his album Acid Rap (called “Paranoia”), he illustrates the effects gun violence has on kids. The song is the pinnacle of his concern, and a musical narrative for the issue. He discusses how prominent the issue is at his age, and one way he does so is showing how school serves as a safe space: You’re indoors for most of the day, hidden from the perils of gun violence. But then there’s summer, the season of vulnerability:

“...everybody dies in the summer.
Wanna say ya goodbyes, tell them while it's spring.

I heard everybody's dying in the summer, so pray to God for a little more spring.”

And it frustrates him that the media doesn’t seem to care about the kids being murdered in the city. There is a distinct lack of media coverage and awareness towards these issues, as he addresses this in “Paranoia:”

“They murking kids, they murder kids here
Why you think they don't talk about it? They deserted us here
Where the fuck is Matt Lauer at? Somebody get Katie Couric in here.”

Not only is Chance the Rapper vocal about gun violence in his music, but he also expresses his concern for the issue outside of the musical realm. On May 23rd, 2014, Chicago made it 24 hours without any shootings. The rapper posted a celebratory Instagram pic featuring supportive texts from his dad.

Photo Courtesy of Chance the Rapper's Instagram

Photo Courtesy of Chance the Rapper's Instagram

Following the photo was Chance’s heartfelt note about the 24 hours.

“#may23rd came and went, and we all made it. Thank you so much Chicago. Thanks to the community organizers and Radio stations that helped. And thanks Dad for teaching us to be hands on, there is no change with us. #takingbackmycity #socialexperiment”

With such a strong advocacy for less gun violence, Chance should be upset about the misrepresentation of Chicago’s bloodshed. Lee’s urbanized attempt at Greek mythology is disgraceful. It belittles the struggles of the families who are personally affected by the gun violence in Chicago. Chance the Rapper is merely vocalizing his distress towards the movie’s false representation of the loss endured by families affected by this pressing issue. 

A week later, however, Chance received backlash from Lee. In an interview with MSNBC, Lee responds to the criticisms on Twitter, pointing out Chance's faults on stance with gun violence.

"Chance the Rapper should say with full disclosure [that] his father works for the mayor. He's the chief of staff," Lee said.

And in light of the suspicions of Mayor Rahm hiding details from the shooting of Laquan McDonald, this puts Chance at a crossroads. He called out Lee for being an "outsider" to gun violence, but he's the son of a man affiliated with an alleged leading player of hiding police brutality in Chicago.

Along with pointing out Chance's flaws, Lee also illustrates a misconception Chance had about the film wherein he called it "exploitive." Lee notes Jennifer Hudson's involvement with Chiraq in an attempt to prove the movie's integrity. "She plays a pivotal role," Lee said. In 2008, Hudson lost her mother, her brother, and her nephew to gun violence when the husband of Hudson's sister shot them in their Chicago home. Bringing to light Hudson's personal history and her involvement with the movie begs the film's credibility on the issue. 

Regardless, people like Chance the Rapper still feel like Chiraq is a misrepresentation of the violence happening in the streets of Chicago. They feel the movie is insensitive and almost mocks the lives of those affected by gun violence. The uproar is fierce, and the boycotts and shouts of opposition speak louder than words ever could.

A Taxonomy of Femininity and Sisterhood

By Annie Zidek

We are lucky to live in a part of the world where feminism has forced a marriage between equality and women, even though there are still many steps that need to be taken. Regardless, it’s important to realize that there are still parts of the world where women are disregarded in their society; their femininity is oppressed, and their softness is taken advantage of. About a month ago, I went to the Chicago Film Festival with my friend Erin to go see the Turkish film, Mustang, which depicted this discrepancy in feminism through five sisters and their emotional, sexual, and physical maturation during their time in a society where they and their Sisterhoods are overlooked.

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

Set in a small town in Turkey, Eastern Islamic ideology drives the familial forces in this household; there is a total disregard for women and feminine beauty. The five sisters—Sonay, Selma, Ece, Nur, and Lale—are suppressed of female rites of passage throughout their female rites of passage because they were innocently fooling around at the beach with some boys after the last day of school. Consequently, the girls’ uncle and grandmother hide them from sex and other female liberties while breeding them for marriage. Scattered along the spectrum from child to woman, the girls are interconnected emotionally because of their isolation. They find beauty in their disregard: they sprawl on floors, limbs entangled with the others’ while bathed in Turkish afternoon light. During “wife lessons,” they joke with one another and what the unknown future holds for them. On their occasional excursions out of the house, they pile into tiny cars together and joke about sexuality. They’re their own girl gang, supporting each other through the trials and tribulations of their caretakers’ emotional and physical abuse.

The sisters watch one another get married. Sonay and Selma are wed off first: Sonay is the lucky one who marries the boy she loves while Selma is stuck in an arranged marriage—her unhappiness clearly illustrated through her belligerent drunkenness and disarray at her own wedding. Not only do they celebrate together, they grieve together. When death kisses one of the sisters and their sisterly dynamic is hindered, they come together—though only for a moment—and lament. Their unadulterated bond and pure love is once again highlighted through their spooning and caressing and soft weeping.

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

The dynamic of their Sisterhood clearly explores serious subjects such as love and suicide and also womanhood. Though femininity is not a necessary role in Sisterhood, its function is enforced in the girls’ lives and relationships. The girls are constantly shown in their bras and underwear but never fully nude, a symbol of their simultaneous liberating innocence and sexual awakening. This depiction kills the idea of nudity’s warped sexuality and puts the nakedness in the context of familial boundaries and sisterly comfort. 

Not only do their clothes represent womanhood, but their long hair, left uncut due to their Islamic heritage, also symbolizes their stark femininity and strong sexuality. The oldest sister, Sonay, who coincidentally boasts the longest hair among the sisters, is the first to openly admit to her sexual escapades when she talks about engaging in anal sex to avoid pregnancy and the breaking of her hymen; next is Selma who tells her gynecologist she “slept with the whole world” after she didn’t bleed on her wedding sheets. The last sister to partake in sexual encounters is Ece, who sleeps with a random man in her uncle’s car while he’s in the bank. All their sexual encounters mark a transition from youth to adulthood, giving sexuality regality.

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

Cinematically, sexuality and femininity are distinct: with visceral colors and light in nearly every scene, the director adorns the girls with strong female characteristics. In many scenes, light engulfs the sisters, putting them in an almost angelic framework. Draping them in natural lighting presents the girls as mundane goddesses. And the colors, varying hues of blues and greens and pink and yellows, give them a sense of life and vitality and youth, memorializing their childlike Sisterhood. These sisterly and womanly visuals offer a glimpse into the interworking of Sisterhood and the pivotal role femininity plays for this family of sisters specifically.

Compared to the Sisterhood of these Turkish sisters, my personal Sisterhoods seem insignificant and petty. Yes, we’ve had our own family struggles but never to the extent of the sisters in Mustang. Still I found solace in the distinct connection between that family and my own: Sisterhood is powerful. In Sisterhood, you are a band of sisters working through life together, leaning on each other, feeding off one another, being there for one another.

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

Photo Courtesy of Kinology

The Bittersweet Graduation of Rookie Yearbook

by Annie Zidek

Courtesy of Annie Zidek

Courtesy of Annie Zidek

October is a tease. The weather fluctuates; she can’t decide if she wants to hold onto summer, or if she’s willing to fade into winter. The days stop faster; the nights start at 5:30 because the clocks can’t fall back until November. October is a month of change, of endings.

Since the 2011 birth of Rookie—an evolution of Tavi Gevinson's very own personal blog The Style Rookie—the site has dedicated itself as a celebration of young girls and all things teen, and Tavi has cemented herself as the mother of bitchfacing, DIY flower crowns, and shrines to our fave celebs. Through Rookie (and occasionally The Style Rookie), Tavi has also offered advice on the teenage mundane from unrequited love to scrapbooking.

In a way, Rookie, the webzine dedicated to young girls and the everyday issues they face, has ended. With the release of their fourth yearbook—a publication compiled of the best posts from that year—marking their senior year, the era of Rookie Yearbooks has come to a close. The feminist webzine has, in a way, graduated.

Now, I previously saw Tavi at two Rookie events, both for the release of the second yearbook two years ago. The first one was in October at Tavi’s hometown of Oak Park, where she and other Chicagoland Rookie writers read some of their pieces featured in that year’s yearbook. The second event took place at Saki, a mellow record store nestled along west Fullerton in Logan Square.

That night was memorable. I drove down from the northern suburbs with my two best friends at the time (and one of their moms). Tavi read her December editor’s letter titled “FOREVER”, wherein she earnestly explored what “forever” is (essentially teendom). The band Lemonhead jammed out, as Rookies danced along; and Rookies spent hours together, chatting and spreading love amongst one another. It was an ethereal moment in my “forever.”

Courtesy of Annie Zidek

Courtesy of Annie Zidek

Speed through time about two years, and on October 21, girls greeted Tavi Gevinson to the stage at the Music Box Theater with hymns of “mom,” enforcing the idea that Tavi is in fact the ultimate maternal totem in the Rookie world. I’m at the Chicago Yearbook Four release: eighteen and with a powerful gal pal sitting next to me as Tavi reads her editor’s letter from August from just three months earlier. August’s theme was “Give and Take,” so in turn, Rookie’s editor in chief explores the dynamics of relationships—family, friends, lovers—but offers no conclusion. It served as Chicago Rookies’ commencement speech. And it was fitting. It encapsulates our own relationships with Rookie.

Our bond with the Yearbooks is coming to a close, but our time with Rookie is far from concluding. Though the annual Yearbook publications are ending, Rookie continues. It has played a role in our lives for four years already. It grew up with us in high school and taught us things our own mothers and teachers didn’t. It’s a passionate Internet site that's assumed the role of “mom” in many cases, and in a way, Tavi has also done that for me. She was my go-to, my substitute mom, my long-distance-friend. She was my idol.

Courtesy of Annie Zidek

Courtesy of Annie Zidek

Tavi still sits with prevalence on my list of influential people, but not as an idol. In her editor’s letter for “Give and Take” this past August, Tavi notes that “getting older means killing your idols, seeing their flaws, lowering them off their pedestals.” I have grown. Over the years, I’ve weaned off Rookie, checking it monthly rather than daily. I still keep track of Tavi and her goings-on, but I don’t hold her at such high regard. She isn’t dead, she’s very much alive. But I’ve learned to treat her as a human being with things to worry about and people to love and things to fuck up. She is off the pedestal I built for her, and she is walking the streets of New York City and riding the subway and acclimating to the concrete jungle just as I am doing in Chicago.

November is now six days old, and October is gone. The days will soon get colder, and the nights will bleed into mornings and afternoons. I am ready. Rookie and Tavi taught me warmth and awareness, and I will adapt to the bitter Midwest winter. I will be—I am—self-aware: with cautious yet confident movements, I feel my way through winter, headed towards the tender breaths of March and spring, a time of birth, exploration, and growth.

The Last Time I Saw Summer

By Annie Zidek

This summer, the sun beat down, but its love beat down even harder; it was like Sofia Coppola directed the minute details, but my body did the rest. Girls and boys played games we’d seen in films, and the midsummer heat felt all but hazy. It burned. There are scars. But that’s what summer is, and you don’t give up the fight. Here in the empty time lapses of October, I’ll tuck in small poems from June, her masterful hands slitting throats, from July, his hair caught fire in the afterglow, and from August, her voice echoing through six countries.

 

crystalized hearts chase Mars at dawn

their sun soaked tresses leave trails

of forgotten lightdust on the road

and at night lightbugs

make love in the brush next to the street

the setting moon is our war call

and we shriek

and we scour

until there’s no one left to fight


 

 

lapping milk out of your hands

before it seeps through the cracks.

the wolves have already kissed

the blank space between my neck and shoulder.

they’re painted crimson with my blood:

my fingers in the alpha,

my toes in the omega.

I’m in more than two places at once;

I’m dancing past pink houses

and prowling past babies I’ll never meet.

orion, what have you done?

now my bones are merely rattles

for the male ego while the snow

sits stained with my fidelity.

tame these beasts with a thread,

stitching decency and formality into their paws

so each time they step

their bodies ache with weight of their knavery.

 

 

the days are wine: sweet, hazy, smooth.

we sat in nervous grass and swam in eager rivers.

our blood is too sweet,

so the mosquitoes kiss us—arms, lips, thighs.

we ache for weeks with red welts of love,

small reminders that parts of us are so easily taken.

like a canned peach, the sun swells

bulbous and fruitful in a hasty sky.

standing atop church spires during golden hour,

I watch the sun cower.

I’ve never seen someone leave earth so quickly,

and now the pregnant moon reigns with summer hymns.

naked bodies and think air:

this is July.

Don’t look back at June;

she carries a weight no man can handle.

one of her nights, they used ice from saturn’s rings

as machetes and slaughtered those

with curved spines and restless sons.

amorous lips and amorous hands and—

mmf—those german lullabies lull me into promises

i cannot keep.

we are walking on the rubble of dresden:

charred, unsteady, guilt-ridden.

but we are humans, eager for touches

and broken toes.

ignoring pocket watches and bedside lamps,

we mimic schiele’s “lovemaking,”

with disfigured lines and steady colors

bleeding into the white with our confident hands.

our jaws will start wars

and our knees will buckle under

and we will be collateral.

there won’t be an armistice;

instead our mouths will be lined with canker sores

and our countrymen will rot with us in enamored skin.



 

Home: A Listography

By Annie Zidek

Home is something you know too well. It’s good and bad, abusive and loving. Home is snippets of life scattered nonlinear in blank spaces and in falling blossoms and in mom’s shadow. Home is everywhere for me, so here is a list of things I found too familiar:

  • Your lineage dates before the Babylonians, before the mapping of the stars and man’s discrepancies. South Carolina bitterness laps at your tongue, and cicada shells pile up in your closet. These are southern formalities. You knocked over red candles in my sister’s room. It was carpet. It stained. Everytime I walk past I see the first bloodshed, our own civil war. Dig up the bones of our carcassa gossamer of unforetold signs and interlaced stars. She did not rot; she waxed and waned, waiting for you and for her resurrection.

  • They all leave in misty Saturday mornings. They rip out bottom jaws, clean cuts without blood or hesitation. Half my lips are gone, and They are just ghosts with warm shoulders and fiery arms. My mom said they all leave, and I will tell my daughter to expect nothing but broken backs and coffee rings. They all leave.
  • It rained bohemian crystal for four days, and no one could step outside with bleeding feet. But we walk through cobblestone streetsunsteadyand dance with Saint Wenceslaus and banter with over half a bottle of riesling. We see our breathes join everyone else’s. Dad climbs astronomical clocks in hopes of better futures, which tarot readers could not see.
  • Tumbling in parking lots with Spanish lullabies brings forth no conclusions. All I know is there are three dots on your neck: an equilateral triangle. Symmetry is comfortable. It’s all worth the spilt coffee and burning hands because when I hear jangling keys and reserved footsteps, I look up. Jesus, don’t cry.
  • Your tattoos are a balancing act, and you whisper in German. Ignore brain research: the results are inconclusive. Focus on the knots in your back instead, the mounds of glory and deceit you’ve studied and know too well. We sit in between two mirrors; is this a ritual or a mind game? It doesn’t matter as long you don’t stop singing about Russian composers, and tell us about your faint past.
  • These things I saw: drinks coffee black, crooked teeth, a freckle behind your left ear, pigeon toed, bitten fingernails, ribs. These things I missed: Picasso and lovers lost and everything in between. All I know is "Ok wait now I’ve gotten too angry to talk right now I don’t want to say something I’ll regret. Can we talk about this later when I’ve calmed down." The only grounds for divorce were irreconcilable differences.
  • Planets aligncalculated but unplanned. The sun and the moon and Mars and Venus grace us with their love and plunge into our hearts, pulling the tide up to the point where it teases our feet. Lake Michigan screams, “It’s a shame we can’t count the stars!” Instead we count all of the emanating buildings polluting the night air (341). But it really doesn't matter because these towers are the closest I’ve ever come to love.

Most of these homes are in the past, places and people and times I considered a part of me, but all my homes are nonstructural and impermanent: they are flesh and blurred memories and roaring feelings. They cannot be counted or measured, and that’s what makes them home.

There Are No Lines

By Annie Zidek

I grew up in a strikingly conservative family. Consequently, we never talked about sex; it was taboo for my Reagan-loving parents, so there was a mutual understanding that “sex is bad.” Attending a Catholic grade school and a Catholic high school also had its sexual pitfalls: the extent of sex-ed in school came from religion teachers who carved abstinence into our horny thighs. And no one ever spoke of sexuality.

Then at the meek age of 15, there was the illustrious `~*internet*~`. Smashed into the center of it all, I suffered in my poor attempt to untangle the webs of sexuality. Now at 18, with gossamer all over, I accept the fact that I’m sexually fluid. But in the clusterfuck that is sexuality, people can’t help but wonder what sexual fluidity is.

Before we even talk about what sexual fluidity is, let’s talk about gender. Look at how our society has manipulated us into believing in these binaries: growing up we are pushed to create these ideas of “femininity” and “masculinity” through our experiences. Young girls are taught to hide their livelihoods: their blood and their milk and their hair. They’re told to dress in the color of their flushed cheeks and speak with timid tongues. On the other hand, boys are steel, strong and cold. Leaky eyes and dents in their skin call for demolition, the ultimate demise. Society created these—essential—categories to put people in to make life simpler when in reality these constructs are incredibly complicated. Simply, people can be gender fluid and fall anywhere between the social constructs of “female” and “male.” They are the color black. Neither pink nor blue. Neither boy nor girl. Black bleeds into black; there are no lines.

Since people view gender in this non-binary way, they are open to all sorts of people sexually thus identifying as sexually fluid. Many young people, like Lily Depp, Kristen Stewart, and Cara Delevingne, have brought this idea to the forefront, openly rejecting sexual binaries. In fact, in an interview with Nylon magazine, Stewart—the queen of chill and authenticity—references the parameters of her sexuality and says “I am an actress, man. I live in the fucking ambiguity of this life and I love it.” She refuses to conform to any standard of sexuality, placing her in this grey area.

With these prominent women “coming out” as sexually fluid, one may think others will choose to identify as sexually fluid simply because celebrities are doing it. This is not a fad. This is very real. People genuinely feel they fall somewhere in between on the Kinsey scale—the scale of sexuality. In a survey conducted by YouGov, one in every three young American says they are not 100% heterosexual and not 100% homosexual. Since this generation is more progressive than their parents, they embrace the unknown, accepting the fact that they don’t conform to the sexual binaries society created.

The whole point of sexual fluidity is sexual algorithms don’t come into play: these people, myself included, leave their sexuality open to anyone. We aren’t stuck in a sexual limbo. We know what we’re doing, and we embrace our blurry sexual parameters.

Art by Olivia Rogers

Art by Olivia Rogers

Independence

By Annie Zidek

My mom has been through a lot: at 30 she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. And eight years later she was diagnosed with another brain tumor. And in December of 2013 she was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy beat her up and keep her bed ridden. For sixteen years, it's felt like I've been going solo since she hasn't always been able to be there for me.

I don't blame my mom at all; being independent has allowed me to grow into my strength and helped me come to terms with the idea that it's okay to be alone at times.

Being alone let me analyze my ideals and myself. I took pieces from my circumstances and built them into who I am. While doing so, I learned to fend for myself and what I stand for.

I grew into myself. Confidence sprouted from my sense of independence, and I became self-assured and felt slight empowerment. I (kind of) know what I’m doing now, and I’m aware of what I want.

Going solo helped me internalized relationships and appreciate individuals. Human connection is pivotal: we can’t live without it. Cherish the “human noises” as Raymond Carver calls it because those are the sweetest sounds.

Being “on my own” in a way pushed me to explore ideas different from when I was raised with. I came to love art and poetry and feminism, all of which gave me a voice I felt I didn’t have before.

Basically my mom is badass, and she helped me become badass. THANKS, MOM.

 

Feel Everything Change

By Annie Zidek

One hour from Vienna and my dad and I drive through the Slovakian countryside, hugged on either side by withering sunflower fields. Eventually we snake through the small blue collar towns of what used to be Czechoslovakia, each looking like the other with yellow weeds growing like hair out of the sidewalks, small houses with faded window panes and peeling paint, and the occassional shirtless, wrinkly old man on a bike. The only thing setting the towns apart are dinky, worn out road signs.

 "VYSOKÁ PRI MORAVE." The village where my great-grandfather was from, the town name that's been thrown around the family for years is finally tangible, and a white sign memorializes it.

My eleven year old great-grandfather left Vysoká Pri Morave with his family and immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. Following Ellis Island, his family stayed in New York City for awhile where he and his older brother John sold wire brushes on street corners; later in his teens, Stephan and his family moved to Chicago, where eventually Stephan and John started their own business, Midland Metal, on the south side of Chicago. The business flourished, and Stephan grew into a happy and successful family with a wife and two children. His life in Czechoslovakia was in the past.

We scour the town for our family. We start at the church—St. Andrews—which serves as a divine fortress with its three foot wall encompassing the building and the gates barred with a twisted wire serving as a lock. Without finding a "Zidek" enscripted on the monument in front of the church for Vysoká soldiers who died in World War I, we drive six blocks to the cemetery—marble graves graced with flowers and a profound respect for the dead. We pace through headstones and relay names. "Cermak." "Wonzova." "Višvaderovi." But we can't find any "Zideks." Considering the town doesn't have a town hall and with over 100 years since our family has been there, it's safe to assume we won't find anything of our family in Vysoká.

 This scattered Bohemian ghost town offers no remnants of the Zidek family, and the only signs of life are dark haired boys in alleyways and children playing in an abandoned, rusty car by the river. There's a stark contrast between our origins and how far our family has come: the small Czech town watches the world pass by and she ages, and Stephan left and started a life wherein he chased down opportunities a small town encased in fields could not give him.

born with eyes of moonstone,

the whole village comes from their Mothers

eyes wide open—soft and watery.

nursing from the morava

and riddled with doubt,

they suckle on bygones.

as children they pick at their palms

and rip off the end of life lines.

 

they build houses out of gnashing teeth

and paint them the colors of wine.

their skin fades to brown

from the sun's and soil's kisses

and promises of new tomorrows.

they have nervous habits—

peeling the skin off poplar trees

and eating bohemian wildflowers—

as they wait to be bailed out.

 

under marble slabs and their lovers' remorse,

with stripped throats and calloused knuckles,

they plunder cities they haven't seen

because they never made it past

the sunflowers.