Saturday, January 12, 2013

Issue One

This is the temporary home of Issue One of Strange Girl Press featuring the poetry of Mary Coleman, Juliet Cook, Jill Khoury, Nadra Mabrouk, J.S. MacLean, Andrea Quinlan, and Martin Willitts, Jr.

Be sure to check out the page, "The Art of Mary Coleman".

In the future all issues will be published at   Strange Girl Press [dot] [com]

Mary Coleman


Though names are confidential
I shall know you always as Rosie,
The girl who tore out her eyes.
Or did they just fall out,
as you said they did?
The nurse found you seated on the bed,
still as the summer afternoon.
You sat there, enjoying the sun,
Holding in each palm the gift of sight.

The Last Days of Ward 81

The wall paint is a dry riverbed of cracks.
Grated windows filter sunlight through thirty years of grime.
The afternoon concentrates its rays on a scattered deck of cards.
Paper kings and queens are fused to the crumbling tiles,
A waterlogged collage of royalty stained by years of animal shit.
In the bathroom sink sits a flowerpot.
Broken stems and shrunken leaves litter the dry, loose soil.
The festive wrapping has turned gray and brittle.
Here color seeps away with the years, faded by the moldering walls,
Washed by the Oregon rain,
Covered by roosting birds, and nesting rodents.
And spectral patients, too, cast a formless shadow across the dayroom.
Their names are written almost illegibly above a row of toothbrushes.
Dixie, Grace, Mary, Henrietta, Ann, Gloria…
Though some were discharged, only bodies left the building.
Memory still hangs in the damp air,
An icy presence that buttons sweaters and coats,
And keeps the doors sealed shut.
Outside the windows, drizzle lightly coats tendrils of ivy.
They wind around the pipes and find fissures between bricks,
Poking through the occasional broken pane.
Indoors, the remaining occupants are undisturbed in their decay.
A rusted bathtub with a melted bar of soap and a disintegrating sponge,
The flowerpot in the sink, a soiled blanket strewn on the floor,
Two bottles of shampoo, an empty bank bag,
A gurney with thick straps resting on the metal surface.
The nurse’s telephone with a red light on one side,
Phantom toothbrush owners and card players,
All awaiting scheduled demolition,
The silent countdown broken only by the flapping of a waking owl,
And the hurried rustle of a frightened rat.

Mary Coleman is an American born artist living in New Zealand. She recently finished her BFA at Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland.

Juliet Cook

Red Moon Ashes

Red moon tonight; red rag
doll eyes. As soon as she rises up
into brightness again, she soon turns
dark again. Ashes, ashes, she hideously
writhes and grotesquely whirrs; another
misshapen blood drenched fairy
disaster of ash writhing from her
legs until she has no real footing left.
Red toenails like sharp stars fall down fast
and who could possibly catch & hold
all this mess? Who would want to
bite into a bloody broken bird egg?

Moondangled Bites

I thought I couldn’t help a small spider
crawl out of my bathtub, but I finally did.
Now it’s alive and writhing all over the floor.
A part of my heart pumped out/crawled around.
My racy leg valves got replaced with
burning locomotion of pseudopod cake.
Can sweet honey grow inside dark spider
egg like a new spangled heart string pupa;
make me stop breaking and dripping down?

Drain Potion

If you try to turn me into a mangled, hairless manikin head, I will know
you’re unaware of the spangled shape shifting maneuvers I can throw.
It might not happen fast, but I can grow…
my own drowned hair into spiral shapes; into semi-circle poison
beautyskull lollipops. Then one day when you stick your fingers
down the drain, oh beware of my new spectral writhings
which will suddenly shimmy and plunge themselves deep inside
your neckline, your mouth, your eyes – hack one of those babies out
and replace it with my haunted drain head art.


My moon is a poisonous zoo garden brimming with bizarre erotica. Like vile flasks, these coagulating feet clip off dark red cloud bursts between the knees; split blood drenched toenails like parasitic parasails.
Watch this sloe gin sideswipe seep into you like a storm surge. Feel night vision sparklers drip black raspberry out my borderline holes. Rip out another love song drenched with doppelganging bad lands.
My squirmy heart star-lets are about to explode from outer space like a strange photo booth tainted with biohazards. Shove another lethal dose down this throbbing throat until my cracked pinholes undulate and mutate into slithering tentacles. Nothing can contain this hissing monsoon.
Butterfly valves plunged between my bio-luminescent thighs; throttled them into blue lipped sea kraits.

Juliet Cook’s poetry has appeared within Arsenic Lobster, Barn Owl Review, Menacing Hedge, PEEP/SHOW, Ping Pong and many more print and online sources. She is the editor/publisher of Blood Pudding Press (print) and Thirteen Myna Birds (online). Juliet’s first full-length poetry book, ‘Horrific Confection’ was published by BlazeVOX. She also has oodles of published poetry chapbooks, most recently including FONDANT PIG ANGST (Slash Pine Press), Tongue Like a Stinger (Wheelhouse), POST-STROKE (Blood Pudding Press for Dusie Kollektiv 5) and Thirteen Designer Vaginas (Hyacinth Girl Press). She is currently submitting her second full-length poetry collection. You may find out more at

Jill Khoury

Paper Dancing Girl
In Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” a one-legged toy soldier loves a paper ballerina.
An evil puppet intervenes in their love, a fickle child throws the soldier into the fire, and the two lovers
are burnt up together.

I imagined how the muscles hugged
the long bones of your thigh
to make you stand so rooted to the earth,
all your weight on one leg, like a dancer.
From where you stood, I too was an unlikely
silhouette frozen in action. You fell
for the illusion, a bird that thinks
he spies his mate. Instead, a showy flower
waits for him, throat open. We each saw
something rare in the other’s lines.
You came from the mold as you were.
You fell into place with your comrades.
We knew our role was to entertain,
not to think or feel. But the rhinestone
stitched to my breast sparkled and flamed;
but a storm sucked you out the window;
but you returned. From the doorway
to my palace I saw what you could not:
the hand of a little giant enveloped you,
sent you tumbling into the fire.
I leaned out, arabesque of longing,
and made a wish.

She’s Chronic

I can’t rouse myself to moving
with her on top of me. This muse
likes domination. She pins my wrists,
founders me with her slight weight,
sharp shapes.
She whispers say you love me,
plays each axon with a barbed wire
bow. Today it’s the space where head
meets neck. Yesterday, right elbow.
Day before, sacroiliac crest.
Say you’re blessed. She gently
shoves her fist in my mouth. My eyes
roll back. At times like these I tell myself,
just breathe. She makes me seize.
I flip upside down, hang myself
off the couch, head toward floor.
She counts with me C1, C2, C3
then sticks a fork in my ear and twists.

August 9, 2012
Garden Inn

In the garden room my doctor bids me luxuriate.
            Finally when the meds kick in, I can.
August sunshine warms the plate glass, cozies
            the sheets, chenille duvet. The walls are pale green.
My mother calls me. The secret shape is of an asterisk:
            thing implied but unstated in the body of the text. See
the diagnostic manual. This hotel vacation trumps
            in-patient psych incarceration. At the restaurant
(Breakfast for one?) the hostess asks me where I’m from.
            I answer Here with no corollaries. Your hair’s so pretty.
I play with it self-consciously and offer her the smile
            I save for strangers who are kind. Is everyone
here paid to be this nice? Imagine, she didn’t even earn
            a PhD.
                        I’m relaxing here en suite because of fleas
and OCD. Each black as a stitch, I had felt the bugs bore into me,
            then bolted into the shower, watched them endlessly
sluicing toward the drain, stared down that silver circle
            with its myriad black holes, ensuing catacomb of pipes.
The invisible is everywhere : this thought unhinged me.
            In the hotel lounge the glass-topped end tables have tree trunks
instead of legs. The meds arrive by courier, discreetly. I sip lemonade
            make lists of coping strategies, text my husband
{{{{{{{{anxiety}}}}}}}} and plan for home with affirmations, jeans
            and wrist-length sleeves. I had a Jewish student once
who said in Hebrew school we couldn’t show our elbows
            or our knees. My knees are pocked with bright
red welts— ankles too, belly, wrists. I think of the Latin
            name for cat flea, something felix. I’m prohibited
from Internet, from finding Latin names, also from reading
            how my mother can die nerve by nerve, in doctor-
speak. I set my cup of lemonade atop the knobby trunk, the broad
            glass circle. I choose one cookie, consider two.
Tomorrow I go home. My calm is chemical, corralled
            in squares of ballpoint pen on hotel stationery.
Trouble in the blood is real? perceived? I dream a swath
            of impenetrable skin wide enough to cover me, elbow to knee.

Atlanta International Airport, Part 1

I am not my body
                        [insert hundred-dollar bills]
            [fold / unfold]
when the plane ingests, egests me

——at two years old, miracle my pink sacs
                        stayed inflated, humming, oxygen on time.
            How many times we didn’t die, mother.
That signifies for me, or signified——

I am the movie of my body.
                        You are the conflict. I try
            to disremember chromosomal history, inhabit only
my choreographed movements:

shuttle, street, curb, sidewalk, door


Now I am on the inside of the pane, high-rise.
                        Me who could have been you, who—
            there but for anorexia mirabilis
go I,

stashing my compass up my sleeve.
                        Several masks elaborate
            on your condition pre-and post-.
They pivot, trade scorecards.

Did you know this is what it would be like
                        when there was no longer a you to tear her hair
            and cry into the phone
about it?

Now, metonymical vessel
                        the miracle
            you’ve waited for:
to be poured into a shape that holds.


At twenty-two I chased my devils
with anything hella hot, double
dares involving Aftershock,
shot after shot, tonguing the last
bit of gold from the bottom
of the glass. Midnight alone
in the English building’s stygian
lav, I leaned against ochre
cinderblocks and laid myself
open for boys I didn’t love,
then crammed two bloody fingers
down my throat to retch a river.
My hair was shaved and dyed
like sunset. My sign is fire.

Jill Khoury earned her Masters of Fine Arts from The Ohio State University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, including Sentence, RHINO, Rufous City Review, and Harpur Palate. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice by Breath and Shadow: A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature, and has a chapbook, Borrowed Bodies, from Pudding House Press. She blogs about disability, writing, and art at

Nadra Mabrouk


June to June, I wish the air were wetter
pushing into and impregnating ponds.
In one photograph,
you’re holding two slabs of yellow wood
to build a kitchen table for her.
In another, you are near a still lake,
thin, broken branch in hand pointing at nothing.
In the last, you are not yet conceived
but you exist in your father’s eyes,
a small body already forming on the lips of the mother:
pink and thick and wanting.

Always in the gangly outdoors,
I am almost without you.
On a long pathway,
you try to disappear
and I do not allow you.
At the last picnic
I imagined us as something near gray,
your chin shriveling
at the red pulp underneath my nails,
sweetening the lines on my palms
but I still picked
the wounded strawberries off the dripping wood.
Fingers dangling like sap
you refuse to touch.

In any war,
you would be the first
to be shot.
You: lingering and light haired.
Everyone sees you
threading everywhere like white skin,
like blonde small hairs in hidden, sweating places.
In a warzone
where sweat-softened, brown heads
crack off like rolling barrels,
you look around for me and I am no where near you.

You pant with thirst,
a shrinking ice cube on your curled tongue.
It’s good enough reason
to put your half of the sheet on me
and sidle farther away.
Our bodies are of no use.
I survey your bare knees in the heat
circling the ceiling like a vulture, unsatisfied.

Nadra Mabrouk was born in Cairo, Egypt where she spent only five years. She's been in Miami, Florida around 16 years. She is an undergraduate in Florida International University hoping to finish off with English and Journalism. She works with the University newspaper, The Beacon, as a managing editor and reads submissions for Gulf Stream, the University's literary magazine. You may read her other pieces, "Untitled" in the book, Best Teen Writing of 2010 and "Freshwater" featured on the 22 Magazine Blog.

J.S. MacLean


Sod dwellers slither under verdure
in a glade as birds gossip dawn.
The gully bank along the garden
erodes and a tiny dome appears.
Flattered lies decay like form.
Relinquished stones meld to earth
unmarked by hoof; such is the fate
of secrets lugged to rackety graves.


A fieldstone on the ridge reckons
that a river runs down there
filling with the fallen
spooning forever in contours.
Seasons sweep the earth
from around its feet.
It moves,
and thrills in stirring.
Others have stilled
in rose thickets
and some have sunk
into failing shale.
Cobbling is graceful
as the tipping grade's
cusp is gained
and the gut beckons.
Below; a pastoral interval
sun sweet as bee kiss,
or a heedless rill surely
captive to its selfish vector

Native Land

When a rambled native exits puberty
they quest towards the first coast
with one bladder of alpine meadow ale.
At the shore they fall on barren bellies
gulping brine until visions buzz
like distant traffic on the tectonic rotary.
As night falls they cocoon like driftlogs
into the limestone skipping stones.
Torn reflections of light from the other side
point at a single green Black Cherry leaf
that float-waltzes with the lap and wash
as it scouts landings. Its serrate edges,
inspired by the crests of waves,
curl up in supplication to airy branches
that crackle the empyrean face
streaked with the Tears of St. Lawrence.

J.S. MacLean is an independent poet who has been published in a variety of journals in Canada, USA, UK, and Australia. Most recent publications are or will be in Ice Flow (University of Alaska) and the Literary Review of Canada. He has a collection, Molasses Smothered Lemon Slices available on In his spare time he works.

Andrea Quinlan

A Girl and her Dolls

Alice's room is filled with rotten apple cores, a sewing box, bottles of preserved fruit, a delicate bone china teacup filled with dirty water, pictures, prints, a stuffed rabbit in a glass case and tiny animal skeletons.
There are also two bisque dolls. The largest of these has wavy brown mohair hair and wears a white cotton dress with a matching bonnet. The smaller of these has a sleek honey blonde wig and a pink ruffled dress with glass buttons down the front. The largest doll is called Isabella. The smallest is called Alice. She is something of Alice herself.
Alice herself is something of Alice in Wonderland.
But nothing is wonderful around here.
She is a girl in a room.
She never smiles.
She angrily throws pebbles into a teacup.
Her arms feel tightly bound by the rustling silk of her frilly cuffed sleeves.
She is just waiting to eat tiny biscuits with mysterious shapes on them
And drink from blue bottles of ink.

In the Dollhouse

Marie's room is decorated in pastel colours. Though she is newly married - this is clearly a girl's room. Everything is pale green, pale pink or white.
There is a white metal bed with a white bedspread, a dresser with a porcelain doll perched atop, a white chest of drawers with a pink frilled lampshade and a painting of a little girl, arrangements of dried flowers, a teddy bear and a small white chest with her new initials in gold letters.
There is also a record player on which she can play gentle pop songs whilst lying in bed wearing a pale pink nylon slip and curling her glossy black hair into ringlets.
Marie's wardrobe is filled with candy coloured dresses. There is a green full-skirted cotton dress. There is a yellow dress with puffed sleeves. There is a pink dress which she can wear a crinoline underneath.
For him she wears a purple dress with flowers all over it as she coquettishly poses on a sofa and laughs during the gaps in his speech.
For him she lies still on the bed whilst he pulls of each item of clothing, so gently, so carefully as her skin lies cold and untouched.
When he looks into her eyes it as if he looks right through her. He is looking at her but she isn't there.
She is there.
He isn't looking at her.
When she appears in the dining room with blood and animal innards smeared over her pink bodice he orders her out of the room.
She goes to her own room in disgrace.
A girl who passed through the borders of the dollhouse.
Into the wide open.

Like A Doll

In the first tableau, Lindsay poses sulkily in yellow ruffles as Shirley happily smashes a china doll's teaset.
In the second tableau, Lindsay is dressed in gold high heels, white knee high stockings and an unbuttoned playsuit. She reads a bedtime story to a drowsing Shirley who is perched in her chemise on top of the bed.
In the third tableau, a pink-miniskirted Lindsay glares up at Shirley who has emerged larger than life through the doorframe – there is not room enough in this house for two oversized Alice's.
In the fourth tableau, Lindsay dressed in a belted baby pink coat dries her tears on Shirley's oversized blue babydoll dress skirt.
In the fifth tableau, Shirley and Lindsay have climbed up the hill. Lindsay is no Jill – she is not about to let Shirley kick her down even if she looks fragile.

 A Girl and Her Dolls, In The Dollhouse, & Like A Doll were inspired by the films Something of Alice, Marie Poupee and the Vogue fashion spread "Like a Doll" by Tim Walker.

Andrea Quinlan is a poet and writer based in New Zealand. Her chapbook We Speak Girl was published by Dancing Girl Press in 2012. Another chapbook - The Mysteries of Laura - is forthcoming from Birds of Lace in 2013. She has had poetry published online in Gaga Stigmata, Delirious Hem and NNATAN. Andrea also has a zine project called Story Bought Dress ( &

Martin Willitts, Jr

Wild, Wild with Wild Love
“It’ impossible not/to remember wild and want it back” –
Mary Oliver, Green, Green Is My Sister’s House

There are some reminders we do not need
to understand our desperate purpose —
unfortunately we are stopped cold in our footsteps,
the world pulled away like a rug under our feet –
and the falling begins— closes its wing-like heart,
and nothingness becomes what we were—
and then— what? Do we pray when it is already too late? –
the moment has eclipsed; the envelope of time is sealed.
Enjoy the wildness while you are still attached to it.
Find yourself shrieking with sheer untamed joy.
Try to kick the stars out of the sky.

The Sleeping Gypsy
Based on the painting by Rousseau, 1897

We have been traveling the dreamscape,
a sleepwalker lost in their own thoughts.

This absence of normality creates impossibilities.
In this traveling, there is no distance, taking as long as sleep.
Our belief is primitive imaginings.
Why is it we are never tired of traveling in our dreams?
I do not understand many things in my life,
and loss is one of those dream-like things.
A lion passes by and sniffs the fullness of moon
like it was a note from my six string lyre.
Dream are a pitcher of water.
If I empty it out, more dreams will spill out.

The Annunciation
Based on the painting by Van Eyke, 1434, honoring Luke I: 26-38

The Book of Hours has been turned to the wrong stanza,
for I am not worthy.
I was in the temple, where I belonged,
working on a tapestry of prayer. Why have you chosen me?
You turn words at my unworthy feet.
Glories of seven rays come out of nowhere.
I am not special. I am a pair of hands
stitching threads into something I am not worthy of making.
What is grace?
I do not embody it. I have no special permission.
I have no great words to speak. What is in my unworthy heart?
How could I bare such a burden? What is faith?
I am nobody,
less than a donkey hair, less than straw, less than a drop of rain.
You say I am illuminated. My hands only know thread,
the making of embroidery, casting useless seeds to doves.
What is praise? I am nothing compared to dust.
I am at the loom making a slip and readjusting.
Everyone notices my imperfections. I am less
than a beetle. Why am I compared to the setting of angels?
I notice all the biblical images on the wall,
and I do not belong.
Do not praise me.
I am humble as a thimble, or needle, or guiding thread.
I am full of alarm and uncertainty. Take back
this startling blue ermine. Take back praise.
Unbind this knot/
Do not honor that which does not deserve it.
Do not extol me to be a host of stars.
Lend not my name to something I am not.
I am the furthest from glory.
I am the bend of light as it departs into nothing.
I am common as a sparrow.
I am the draft from a window crack.
I am the wick flickering in no breeze.
I am the drip of wax.
I think, perhaps, you have mistaken me for someone else.
Someone not so common; not small as a ladybug.
I am someone who has no sense and soft spoken.
You need someone fierce, someone flammable, someone unique,
who does not sweep with a broom or collects water
from the lowest brook. I am not the one you seek.

Folding Origami Fish

sixteen folds swimming, over,
creased back, searching for simplicity,
different colors strung, not like fish,
more like a carousel of fish,
some tie-died, some polka-dot, some
on different levels. Hands making repetitions,
paper bending, transmuting into real fish
fluttering lines of poetry in balanced air,
making something different.
Air is buoyant,
glitters off gill slits,
a constellation of fish-stars.
Children in a school
learning to fish for words—
mountain-fold, diagonal fold, crease marks—
punctuation swimming in paper water,
in deepness of intense concentration
following the folds, sixteen times,
gathering a school of fish.
Sometimes, sixteen folds hide fish—
when we reach into the surface of paper,
line breaks
into the depth of experience,
speech and words
become live fish.


They say, if you cut a worm in half
it will regenerate. But they never say,
it will bleed, feel pain,
spending its remaining days
searching for the missing part of itself
A person that has an amputated limb
feels the loss of what was.
The doctors say this is phantom pain,
but to a person feeling its absence,
it is not imaginary.
There are things more real than we can envisage.
We know the missing is truly there.
How can loss be seen any other way?
Our lives can be segmented,
dissected, and studied,
but this has nothing to do with pain.
It is the presence of what is not there.
I could not bring myself to slice the worm,
nor shove a hook in it,
or send it to a watery grave to the fishes.
I could not cause pain.
But, sometimes, we cause pain without trying.
Sometimes, our intentions are well-intended.
Sometimes, the best of us fail;
our efforts are cut open,
then our blood moves like earthworms.
There is a hole, there is an absence,
there are things no longer in place
where they belong,
and nothing,
not one thing,
can bring them together again.

Martin Willitts Jr retired as a Senior Librarian in upstate New York. He is currently a volunteer literacy tutor. He is a visual artist of Victorian and Chinese paper cutouts. He was nominated for 5 Pushcart and 3 Best Of The Net awards. He had the following poetry books published in 2012: How to Find Peace” (Kattywompus Press), “Playing The Pauses In The Absence Of Stars” (Main Street Rag), “No Special Favors” (Green Fuse Press), and “The Heart Knows, Simply, What It Needs: Poems based on Emily Dickinson, her life and poetry” (Aldrich Press).