PC: Sonia Señoráns
Places Named Off Limits
every now and then
the little me inside my head
wanders to places named off limits
I scream and cry and beg her
“please stay within the walls”
but cautiously she stands beside
curiosity consuming conscience
even when she knows what hides behind
“I built these walls to protect me” I plead
broken bits of brick fall before her feet
she is brave, much braver than I
as she takes a step over the bits
over the brick
and over the wall she goes
About The Author - Karlee Hieftje
Karlee Hieftje is a 19 year old college student who’s pretty much just figuring out how to do this whole life thing. This is her first online publication, but the same poem placed third in a local library competition.
PC: Aryhadnë Sardà
Upon Identifying What Consumes Me
Static buzzes underneath my skin and fills my ears like cotton balls plugging out the world, or keeping me in. It rattles my bones and constricts my organs, tight and tighter. A valve shuts off my lungs and I, I am, I am gasping. I cannot breathe--
—until it loosens its grip. My exhalations carry the static out of me, curling like a snake from my panting mouth. It crackles the air and becomes lost against the backdrop of a television screen.
If you peeled back the roof of the house like the lid on a sardine tin, you’d see me at seventeen, lying on a sagging leather couch. My limbs are rigid, working secretly against an untamed need pushing against my body. This is sometime after my mother has threatened to enroll me in charm school, and the beginning of when I start considering the healing hand of Jesus to take away whatever afflicts me. I wear an invisible label—high strung—given to me by my classmates. They believe they need to find me a boyfriend because a good lay will get rid of whatever is wrong with me.
I spring upright, enthralled at a fussing character on the screen. Primetime has handed me a name: obsessive compulsive.
Laughter rakes the air, both mine and my father’s. He laughs because the show is funny. I laugh because I have tasted bittersweet freedom.
Knowledge conspires against me in revenge for all the times I subjected it to my will. Pressed my heel to its neck and told it to be still. It does not want to obey me any longer. It slips from my grasp and leaves me drifting, untethered in the world.
I have forgotten my date of birth.
I have forgotten how to tie my shoes.
I have forgotten reactions and equations and hoped that I did not ignite the world in my estimations.
I have forgotten how to get where I was walking to.
I have forgotten what it feels like to enjoy a stroll down the street. That absence gives space for worry that ignites my brain, heating my skull until I am sure it will explode.
Two girls pass by and a word floats up from their rose red mouths and anoints my brow: anxiety. This holy oil flows across my forehead then seeps into every cell. These priestesses have blessed me with a key that fits within a long-awaited understanding inside me.
That’s what that is.
The smoldering fire cools in waves that ripple across my scalp.
I pause in the shadows blanketing the sidewalks in lacework. Acacias hover like stalwart guardians. Their blossoms shower me in perfume as I listen to the leaves whispering secrets.
I control what crosses this barren scape. Chaos underlies the surface, tearing at the land until it buckles and splits.
I seal the cracks with a wide smile that disguises the terrors swimming beneath my eyelids. They do not cease their assaults. They frighten me while lying in bed bathed in pearl moonbeams. They chase me in slumber and jolt me awake.
For the length of time it takes the light to change from amber to pale yellow, I vibrate in sync with the surrounding universe. Reason places a hand on my elbow and guides me forward.
Speak, it says.
When I open my mouth, Destruction steals my voice and shows me the dismantling of the Eden I’ve created in the desert. I see divorce, my children ripped from my arms. I imagine my family branding me deficient. Silence glues my mouth shut. Keeps my teeth grinding into dust. And when I speak, I fleck the world with shattered truths.
I grind and glue and steel myself while searching the Internet. A woman online admits her struggles to a group of us. She is burdened by horrors, like me: intrusive thoughts. But challenging their existence in the world steals the kindling that fuels them.
She gives me language that flows like spellwork. It binds these mental demons instead of them binding me. Her voice exorcises these intruders and teaches me how to bend them to my will. When I follow her lead, I weep from relief.
The barren landscape cracks, geysers shooting forth from the desiccated earth. Laughter erupts from my mouth, and I lap up the baptismal rain.
About The Author - DW McKinney
DW's work has been featured in Bitch Media, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Stoneboat Literary Journal, TAYO Literary Magazine, and others. She is also currently serving as the creative nonfiction editor at The Tishman Review and Book Reviews Editor at Linden Avenue Literary Journal. You can learn more about her at www.dwmckinney.com.
It's been a while.
First, let me say thank you. Thank you for sticking with us; these past couple of months have been really challenging and I'm glad that many of you have stayed and still read our content.
Second, thank you to our contributors: all the talented poets & writers, photographers & painters,... that we were incredibly lucky & honored to feature online and in our first issue.
Third, I'm sorry I haven't been available to you these past few months, I got hundreds of emails and I just couldn't keep up anymore but I've got some days off from college right now so I'm doing my best to read all of them. I've received so many submissions that I still have to review for our second issue (Anatomy of A Melancholia); thank you to all the talented and unique souls that have trusted us with their art & work. We, as a team, are very grateful. I promise that I'm gonna do my best to answer (but know that if you don't get a response from me that it's not personal - I'm doing the best I can, which means failing a lot and trying again and again, and sometimes it means not answering to emails because I forgot...sorry, I'm working on that).
No matter what, I DO believe in you. Try again. Never stop dreaming. Never stop asking for help, never stop asking for more than the 'now and here'. You're worth it and I believe in you. Thank you so much for believing in Peculiars Magazine; it's not much but it's here and it's here to stay if you let us.
A few things before I go: the deadline for our second issue has been delayed. You have until July 31st to send us your essays, photography,... I will let you know which organization we'll be donating to this time. Many things are gonna change (the shipping, for example! There were too many issues with that) but our heart & soul remain the same: we're survivors just like you and you're not alone.
Please, keep going.
PC: Lexi Jude
I would like to rip my skull open,
scoop out my pathetic, overworked brain;
squeeze it until it oozes between
my fingers like an over-ripe banana.
I’d smear it all over the walls and ceiling,
and yell at it for being broken.
I would like to scream at it until
my throat burns raw, my lungs aching and empty
working to shriek, but producing silence.
My body would shake but my lips won’t quiver.
I’d shout until bile bubbles and threatens
to overflow, and then I’d shout some more.
I would like to peel the freckled skin from my face,
dig into the doughy flesh and rip. Start
at the hairline and work downwards. Feeling
the layers tear from the bone, gleaming
white exposed to the harsh fluorescent lighting.
My naked skeleton sighing in relief.
About The Author - Hannah Buckley
Hannah Buckley, a graduate of Westfield State University, just recently made the transition from strictly prose writing, to poetry. She quickly fell in love with the endless possibilities poetry allows and loves playing with form and the way the words look on the page. She spends most of her time in the woods with her dog.
PC: Caroline Burrows
It isn’t mine
They gave it to me
I drag it around with me
Against my will
I eat it for them
I swallow it for them
I carry it for them
Locked up safely in my sense of worth
It’s there in my every move, my every thought
It strangles me
But it isn’t mine
It is not mine.
About The Author - Caroline Burrows
Caroline Burrows is a self taught photographer living in Brighton, UK. For her, self portrait photography and writing have become an important part of the process of making sense of the long term effects of her childhood trauma, and are helping her to find her own voice. Her photography project 'see me hide' has been featured in peculiars magazine.
PC: Saskia Vaidis
casting out shadows
wear your ignorance
and I’ll wear my grace
lie in the bed
while I gather
and care for
to your defenses
and I will still
There isn’t enough room for you
The floorboards are molding
And there are cracks in the walls
The ceiling is barely holding up
I can’t tell you when
This place will be habitable
When it won’t be haunted
Or smell like old smoke
But that someday
I think in maybes
In hows and whys
I think in centuries
As only a moment
Some as fleeting
In the winds
In “I’m sorry”s
For painful yesterdays
And regretful nows
About The Author - Brittany Tinder
Brittany is a Creative Writing student at the University of Central Florida who is also studying Journalism, Editing and Publishing, and taking courses to earn a certification to teach English in a foreign country, preferably India or Peru. She is from Orlando, Florida and is currently living there, although she plans to escape the heat after earning her bachelor’s and move somewhere up north. She has a few independent blog projects, her most recent one created with a purpose of writing posts about her own spiritual growth, self-realization, and her journey to consciousness called Growing Thoughts. Since her childhood days, she has always been writing poetry, but now as a 21 year old, she is beginning to finally work on having it published.
The Poet Reflects on the Writing Process
They ask me how I write and I don’t
write, I mean, I write, but there isn’t a how now--
it’s an unhinging, tide before bomb, it’s wrong,
it’s wrong, it’s wrong to say these sorts of things,
ask me about interests, ask me about hobbies,
things that detract and distract from excess and unplanned,
understand, I’m a liar when I lie and a lion when I snarl,
marl layer after layer after layer, grow a soundscape to rescrape
what got through—the process? Pen. Paper. Pen. Paper. Paper. Paper. Pen.
And then, we step off white-chip ledge, a pledge is a promise
made on your feet and under your wallet, walls come up, the floor breathes
in and out, in and out, and out and out and out and back into breaking,
they come down as cardboard cut-outs, climb paper as lemurs covered in pus,
you must understand, I’m a man, then I’m not, page starts to rot, then the shift
sets in, it writes me, writes me, write what you know, goes to show I’m not a poet,
but a buffer, watch me spin while it loads and unloads and loads fracture-crack
flashbacks and self-induced cataracts catching the upturned phonics of chronic illness,
there’s a pill for this or that, a stitch for scalp and skin, it’s in, it’s in, it’s in me now,
father, son, and holy shit I get it, forget it, revisit what it’s like to crawl around the lines
or what it’s like for vowels to sound anxious, it’s not antiquated to speak of a muse
when you refuse to live in the label that they give you, I’m a schizo, a schizo,
a need to know basis, laces removed at the corner-front desk, confess in the booth,
here’s a tooth, fetch a fairy or two, the twoness, that’s the real trouble in a way,
the poem wants to say and unsay and the man wants to say and say and say, slip
cold fingers over shutting mouth, stifle intention, retention, declension, protention,
we extend and recede as water in reeds and catch sun in pieces of glass, so ask, so ask,
“What made you want to be a writer?” And you know and you know and you know by
now that the question is coming and coming and running toward the lip of your tongue,
you’re undone, you’re undone, you’re undone—
to be one,
and I run
About The Author: Jake Bailey
Jake Bailey is a schizotypal confessionalist in Antioch University Los Angeles’ MFA program and the co-editor of poetry for Lunch Ticket. He has published or forthcoming work in Parentheses Journal, FlyPaper Magazine, The Laurel Review, Pidgeonholes, formercactus, The Hellebore, Barren Magazine, and elsewhere
a project by Caroline Burrows
Who am I? - I'm a woman, a mother, a child abuse survivor (but I make a face as I type that because it does not define me). I'm a recent Social Sciences graduate and I live in Brighton. I'm 48 which always genuinely surprises me as I really haven't finished being 20 yet.
In 'see me hide' I attempt to illustrate my ongoing exploration of the adverse effects of complex childhood trauma on my adult relationships and interactions. It's a series of self portraits in which I am often naked, sometimes blurred and occasionally bleeding, but always hiding who I am, while imploring the viewer to really see me. I'm asking, and I really do want to know: What is it like to be seen? What is it like to be heard?
What is it like to be seen? What is it like to be heard?
Mental Health, my own mental health, is vital to me. "Mental Health" is very difficult to define however. I firmly believe that there is no such thing as "normal", which makes the concepts of illness and wellness entirely subjective. There seem to be clearly defined symptoms of mental illness, but no clear benchmarks for mental wellness. I think that people need to get to know themselves to be able to know what is well for them and what is unwell, but that level of self awareness takes a great deal of work, and I wonder if anyone ever really attains it.
I've always been interested in photography but I never knew enough about how to make a camera work for me until I was given my first fully manual mirrorless camera two years ago. Since then my interest has developed into a passion. I've always looked to see if I recognize myself in photographs that other people have taken of me, and in my own self portraiture I'm still looking for a me that I recognize. Even though I'm often naked in my self portraits in 'see me hide' I don't find them nearly as revealing or as exposing or as raw as the words I've written to accompany them.
If you had one message for our readers, what would it be?
A message for Peculiars readers - I would say don't carry other people's shame for them. It's heavy and it's cumbersome and it will burden you and you don't need to because it really really isn't yours.
Any inspirations to share?
Francesca Woodman. I love her work and her humour and her cynicism and her use of herself as a model, not as self portraits as such but as the subject (or object) in her photographs. I'm inspired by artists who work in self portraiture or who use themselves as models for their pictures, and who use that approach to explore or express who they are and how they see the world. Robert Mapplethorpe for the way that his photographs are beautiful but push boundaries and push viewers and push norms. I love the way that Vivien Maier just got on with taking photographs for herself throughout her life, without receiving any recognition while she was taking them or while she was alive. I found Anja Niemi's project 'She Could have been a Cowboy' very inspiring, in which she dresses up as both a woman trapped at home in a pink dress and the cowboy that she dreams of being, capturing for me the juxtaposition between conforming to other people's expectations and the freedom of being who you know yourself to be. I fell for Munch's depiction of Puberty and stared at it for what felt like ages, feeling once again the awkwardness of being a teenage girl, how it felt to be becoming sexually attractive and simultaneously incredibly self conscious, and marveling at the way he captured it, as if he knew. I also love the incredibly beautiful darkness in Francis Bacon's work.
Writers who inspire me are too numerous to list here, but I've loved Thomas Hardy and the characters in his novels since I studied his work as a teenager. I've loved Tom Robbins for nearly as long and have devoured every novel he's written. Also Will Self, Jonathan Franzen, Toni Morrison, Kate Atkinson, Arundhati Roy, Martin Amis. My favourite book is The Bone People by Keri Hulme, and my copy of that novel is one of my most important possessions.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Caroline is a self taught photographer and was born in Oxford. She have lived in Brighton in the UK since 1989.
Find Caroline's entire project over here.
PC: Caro Sanguinetti
All I'm looking for is a ceremony
“A miracle isn’t a miracle without sacrifice”
- Paige Lewis
A disability aesthetic, you ask. The temporarily-abled (TA) attempt to delineate one for us, where life in pain is unsustainable, that self-selecting eugenics is a private eugenics. There is no reproductive justice that does
not center how to live cared for, by the state, by a network of interdependence and monies allocated for caretaking, the feminized labor of paying attention to needs, anticipating pain or hunger or the need for a
I want my grief to be transcendent: somehow worse than yours, more of a shredding sensation, the sharper form of pain than I am willing to admit, and that this almost invisible wrenching bracketed sawhorse that I strap to my back and do not loose for anything,
Between desire and the edge of motion, the crimp of arousal, the slip that I allow, an urgence, the note I leave behind
[There is something awesome about longing]
I have to leave my psychiatrist. She’s a Sagittarius; she gets me. She’s graduating from her residency program. and starting a new job working with Native folks on medication management. In our final appointment, I have to sign paperwork detailing our treatment plan: “reduce anxiety by 50%,” it says. Quantification did my feelings, my trauma. I start to cry talking about my pain, about feeling so drained trying on new doctors like shoes. I wail, I don’t want a new psychiatrist. I wipe tears down my cheeks in little rivers. I say, I don’t want to start from nothing, to have to justify how my politics are a huge part of how I think about my illnesses, staying well, wanting to feel ok instead of like I’m dying of constant pain.
These are inextricable: my body is a signifier, and my fragmented postmodern subject reveals itself in my medical records, sporadic; disjointed; contradictory. For my native-New Yorker millennial psychiatrist, I am funny, resilient, intelligent; my Boomer evangelical anti-feminist doctor marked me down as non-compliant.
In Sick, Porochista Khakpour details her abundance of medical consults. Advice pours in, and Sontag urges us to resist metaphor, but if I have to splice chunks of myself off to survive the onslaught of abled people recommending fasts, yoga studios, cleanse programs in Bali, hiking, naturalism, reiki, essential oils, eradicating mold, getting more sleep, schema therapy, Rolfing, stevia supplements, running, going vegan, stretching, breathwork, CBD, magnesium, visiting a chiropractor...
How can I avoid the metaphor of exhaustion?
About The Author: Jesse Rice-Evans
Jesse Rice-Evans (she/her/hers) is a white neuroqueer femme and Southern poet based in NYC (unceded Lenape territory) studying chronic pain rhetorics and femme internet relationships. Read her work in Hematopoiesis, Peach Mag, glittermob, and Nat. Brut, among others, and in her forthcoming debut collection, The Uninhabitable (2019), from Sibling Rivalry Press.
Why I Run
I used to use food like a prize at a fairground,
calories were points I had to earn to level up,
and the game had a glitch so the lowest score won.
I said if I worked hard, then I’d deserve to eat,
but what I meant by this was I had to be in pain.
So when someone says: “You must really like running”
what I want to tell them is: No.
I’ve just replaced one pain for another.
Eating Around The Clock
The dinner plate watches me as if it’s the one in control. The cutlery lies side by side at an angle like it’s raising a questioning eyebrow - even inanimate objects doubt I can do this. I eat around the plate like it’s a clock, and I move just as slowly. Forty minutes pass, I’ve only eaten half the meal which means I’m ten minutes behind schedule - I’m slower than a clock. I pause. It’s another fifteen minutes before I can bring myself to start again and when I do, the food is cold and I microwave it to buy myself some more time. I calculate just how behind schedule I’ve become and it’s the most maths I’ve done in ages. I hate maths but I hate thinking about the food inside me more. But apparently not enough to work out the sums without a calculator. From this, I take heart.
‘One bite at a time’ said no one ever
but I hear it nonetheless.
The spoon feels heavier than it did before and it’s the weight of a mouthful balanced there that I can’t take. I watch the steam. I’ve 'accidentally' made the food too hot to eat. It’s another forty minutes before the second half gets eaten and I wash the empty plate at once, like it’s a dirty secret. The cutlery goes away in a draw and I think about snapping the hands of the clock that tuts at me for taking so long, I could take the clock down and use it as a plate, use the hands like chopsticks and stick a plate to the wall. I think: maybe this would help. But I’m too full to know why.
The word gets stuck in my throat
like food would
if I ate.
It’s pointed, like my bones aren’t
and heavy like I am.
It churns in my mouth as I grind teeth
that clearly just miss having something to do.
And today - everyday - I swallow it down
as my only sustenance
so that nobody will know.
About The Author: Beth O'Brien
Beth O’Brien is a third year English Literature student at the University of Birmingham. She has had work published with Foxglove Journal, Nine Muses Poetry, Dear Reader Poetry, BellaOnline Literary Review, and Pulp Poets Press. She is a reviewer for Mad Hatter Reviews and Riggwelter Press and has written articles for sheswanderful.com and the Graduate Recruitment Bureau blog