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The Parliament Literary Journal Winter 2021 Issue 2

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Winter 2021 / Issue 2 It’s about to spill. 2

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TABLE OF CONTENTS 3 4/5 Nikki Gonzalez 6/7 Chachee Valentine 8/9 Eddie Brophy 10/11/12 Caitlin McKenna 14 Will Neuenfeldt 15 Michael Moreth 16/17/18 Ruth Niemiec 20 Sayat Naseem 22/23 Alyssa Cressotti 24/25 Paul Tanner 26/27 Denise Berger 28/29 Craig Finlay 31 Brian Yapko 32/33 Emily Rose Miller 34/35/36 N. Nagy 38/39/40 Rachel Stempel 41 Connor Doyle 42/43 Stephen Kingsnorth Artistically Inspired Contest 50/51 Richard Thompson 52/53 Liz Hart (Editor’s Winner) 54/55/56/57 Justin Byrne (Arst’s Winner) 58/59 Tatia Veikkola (Arst’s Winner)

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR I wasn’t naïve. Of course not. Putting out a call like ‘truth serum’, I was asking for writers and artists to strip for me, to shed their protective layers, to bare themselves. And yet, I wasn’t prepared for the response -- both in its quantity of people willing (needing?) to submit and the depth of the rawness with which I was entrusted. I in-vited people to spill it and spill it they did. More than one made me laugh aloud and just as many made me openly cry. The challenge of truth serum exposes the conundrum that the very nature of truth often presents. Truth is real; it simply IS. And yet, in so many instances, we are called to conceal it; bury it; pretend that it ISN’T. As one submitter wrote to me in their cov-er letter, imbibing in truth serum suggested to them the act of “revealing things against my will”, something seen as both terrifying and utterly liberating. Why are we so compelled to hide our truths? What became immediately and screamingly clear as this issue came together was that so many of our truths -- the ones we guard and hold tightly to -- are, in fact, shared with others. The same hurts and joys that we are reluctant to discuss belong to oth-ers, as well. Even our fictitiously crafted sto-ries, presented several steps removed, tell the tales of the next submitter who claimed them openly as their own truth. Photos with faces cut to conceal truths not yet ready to be told fully are complete and framed by the next person. We come to our truths in different ways and at different times. 4

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The challenge, too, for this issue, became our willingness to address some of the truths that were presented to us. Were there some truths that we were not willing to give light to or do we have a responsibility to put them all on the table, openly and without censure and uncensored? We strove to tackle even the hardest with few exceptions, knowing that the discussion is im-portant, hard though it may be. Our issue, as you will have seen, comes with a Trigger Warning; an indication that when we set to the scales our responsi-bility to truth and to the care for each other, we do so cautiously and meas-ured. And then, in this issue, too, is our art contest. Our art contest, with the image of “La Donna” provided by the extraordinar-ily talented artist and award-winning educator, Richard Thompson of High-land Park, NJ, in all its florals and bright colors may seem starkly contrasting to our truth serum theme. But perception of a scene or of a person -- even in the form of a cartoonish older woman -- draws from our inner selves. Truths from our own depths unwittingly reveal on the pages we write as we im-press them onto others. The response for the contest was impactful. With great difficulty, I chose my favorite, Liz Hart’s “Open to the Wind”, while Richard couldn’t choose between two: Tatia Veikkola’s “Her Pale Envelope” and Justin Byrne’s “Symphony of Flowers”, so we declared them all our win-ners, quite deservingly. I will close this letter with an expression of my tremendous awe for our writ-ers and artists. I am so proud of this collection of stories, poems, and art. So. Damn. Proud. I know that many of these pieces came rooted in hurts and fears, pulled from dark, uncomfortable depths. And I can only be inspired by the strength of each person that squared off with their pains and CREATED beauty in its place. I cherish your creations for all that they are and that they represent. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of that. Nikki Gonzalez 5

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failed suicide Chachee Valentine is a video artist, photographer and poet. Her poems have appeared or are forth-coming in Stolen Island Review, Lullwater Review, Fugue, P’an Ku, In-Site Magazine, Words & Images, Alchemy, Prairie Margins, Askew, Bitchin’ Kitsch, Eunoia Review and 11 Mag Berlin. Chachee attends Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM for her BFA in Creative Writing in Spring ’22. Feel free to check out her videos at or follow her on Twitter @ChacheeAlchemy. Chachee Valentine 7

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EDDIE BROPHY Leave the Funerals for the Dead I mourned the internment of salad days as a noctambulant specter paying emotional ransoms with inebriated regret when the clarity of trauma emphasized the tangibility of my end through the egregious melancholy of myself cataloging haunted memories in a library of sordid thoughts renewing the dread of Eldritch musings waxing existential esurient for ennui imbibing these dire affirmations (continued) 8

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and pontificating nihilism with redundant trepidation amassing a wealth of agonist creeds wayward and ambivalent with the child in repose the man cannot relax trying to mitigate futility cadaverous in his head put the little boy to sleep and leave the funerals to the dead Eddie Brophy / Leave the Funerals for the Dead Eddie Brophy is a poet, author, and blogger from Massachusetts. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in English and Creative Writing. His previous writing credits include poems in The Poet’s Haven Digest, Better Than Starbucks, Ghost City Press, and Terror House Magazine. His short-short story “The B.K.R. Killer,” can be read on Haunted MTL. His debut novel “Nothing to Get Nostalgic About,” is available now on Amazon and wherever you get your books. You can read his blog at or follow him on Instagram @eddiebrophywriter . 9

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CAITLIN MCKENNA Brittle Bones (continued) Last week a guy did something to me. I don’t think I need to elaborate. Because to draw out the tale would be to get tangled in the web and the web is not what is important. I am what is important. And I stopped myself from talking about it or from crying to my mother, because I was scared of what she would think. Because some days, I look at my bare thighs and recall every time I have asked to be kissed and I cannot help but to conclude that is why he had deemed he could. I know that no one is ever asking for it but when it comes to my own body, sometimes, I feel like the exception. It’s not like the first time this has happened, but it’s still so raw. Not like unpicking the stitches on old wounds and allowing them to ooze but like a fresh cut, and I think it must be because he seemed so nice. He seemed so nice. But there were a thousand red cards held up 10

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Caitlin McKenna / Brittle Bones (continued) from the time he told me he could feel no empathy to the bodies in his likes and every late night text that lay in between. I’d argue I was moth to the flame, bull to china shop but that is derivative and if you are still reading this you already know what I mean. Because it seems like we broken people are drawn to those who are most dangerous like we find comfort in the hurt and the instability of those we know will never love us. Because real love risks rejection, abandons the safety nets, and free falls into the dark, and I cannot handle rejection. I know repression is the root of obsession but it’s a week later and I am drinking wine from the bottle, unable to cry, on my bathroom floor, where I have come to feel so at home and everyone who knows me expects me to spiral but I don’t but I don’t know how to unravel because it all feels too tightly wrapped inside, like a cord restricting my throat and I know I have already lost the thread of this metaphor somewhere inside this poem. I unfollowed everyone he knows, 11

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Caitlin Mckenna is a Masters student and poet from Leeds. As a queer, socialist vegan, Caitlin spends her time baking, napping with her cats, and falling in love many times a day. Her work focuses upon mental health, identity, and self expression. Brittle Bones, in particular, is a confessional piece that tried to tackle the predicament writers feel when something signicant befalls us and words seem to fail. It's an brutally honest piece but one I'm honoured to share. Caitlin McKenna / Brittle Bones just in case. I’m trying to find a way to process what happened; And saying it out loud sounds like a threat. And there are words we never say. Words that hurt too much. And poetry once felt like an escape but if language is the bed. Well. If language is the bed can I just say that I no longer feel safe sleeping on my own. I still can’t explain what happened Or how I feel about it. But here’s my best try: My bones began to splinter when I turned 15 and realized there would be secrets to hold forever and the pressure of it all started to grate on me until little by little I crumbled away. 12

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returning her gaze 13

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WILL NEUENFELDT COVID Rot Two days in sweatpants, the scent of sweat cakes on my crotch, baking through boxers I feel its frosting spread in darker shades of grey. Working from the waist up, Co-workers are unaware though I suspect they see smoke billowing from below. Tonight, I’m relieved to blow out the candles under a hot shower in my birthday suit. Will Neuenfeldt studied English at Gustavus Adolphus College and his poems will be published in Freeze Ray, Gyroscope, and Red Flag Poetry. He lives in Cottage Grove, MN home of Steven Stier and a house Teddy Roosevelt slept in. 14

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MICHAEL MORETH Chair Michael Moreth is a recovering Chicagoan living in the rural, micropolitan City of Sterling, the Paris of Northwest Illinois. 15

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RUTH NIEMIEC Tiger Snakes The January sun burns hot in these parts. Peak Aussie summer and we are broken down. A busted tyre on the side of the Murray Valley Highway. I pick up a water bottle we’ve been sharing all the way across the state. Cloudy, warm swill. I roll the circular bottle between my palms and press the bare skin of my lower back right up against the warm and sticky vinyl passenger seat in our 1984 Holden se-dan. He tells me we have no spare tyre and we’ll have to flag down a passer-by. I consider the chances of one in the next hour and think to myself slim. The windscreen is smeared with the greasy innards of bugs. An inevitable massacre of a road trip. The death stained windscreen makes me queasy. Can’t sit still so I step out of the car, slamming the Holden’s heavy metal door behind me. It thuds and in my de-hydrated, sleep-deprived state I swear I hear it echo over Lake Boga, which we’ve end-ed up beside. An irregularly circular patch of crusty terrain. Used to be filled with water and jet-skiers. The road’s asphalt is dark and hot and refracting. I quickly walk over it and reach the dirt bank beside the road. Stopping there, I scan for Tiger snakes and once more for Brown snakes, which are harder to see and blend in just fine with the dirt and scrub. I shield my tired eyes from the burning sun and look up over the lake. There’s nothing to do but wait and as I consider the uncertain length of time we will be waiting here, my chest aches dully. I rub sweat off from under my eyes and correct my ponytail. I’ve got a paperback book, somewhere on the back seat. A run of the mill romance novel I picked up at a rest stop. It was the only book that didn’t have a cover faded to pastels, in the basket just inside the door marked “$1 Bargain Books” so it made my choice easi-er. I had flipped through it to make sure all the pages were intact. Didn’t bother with the blurb, the cover image said enough. When I put it on the counter to pay, the rotund middle-aged man with a wispy grey 16

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moustache, peppering his thin top lip flashed his eyebrows at me and then curled his lips up into a little smile. He told me it was a good choice and I shrugged. I put the dol-lar on the counter so our skin wouldn’t touch and then I walked back outside into the blistering heat. As soon as I got to the car, I threw the rags to riches novella onto the back seat and wait-ed, rolling a cigarette to pass the time. My dirty feet up on the dashboard. Pink nail polish on my toenails almost entirely worn off. I’m 20 metres into the dry lake when he calls after me. He asks me what I’m doing and tells me there’s bound to be snakes out there. I tell him it’s all the same, over here or over there. They could be anywhere. Probably spiders too I mention. It’s so quiet. I focus on the silence and stare at the cracks in the dirt. I consider how long it takes for them to form and how quickly they disappear when and if the rains come in. Nothing much to do out here, nah. Nothing much to do but stay awake and wait. There’s a tree between the road and the lake, but you’d call it more of a log sticking up out of the dirt, really. There’s a large, flat rock at the foot of it and so I wander over and sit on it, letting my legs hang freely over the side of it. I find a comfortable position and stare into middle space. He’s lit a rollie. The shuffle of his shoes sound, along the asphalt quickly, then slower on the dirt. He tells me we are out of water and I nod. I take the cigarette from his offer-ing hand and drag. His body blocks some of the sunlight. The nicotine is relaxing but I instantly feel guilty and hand it back to him. He says it’s bloody hot. I nod. He says we should have prepared better. I clap my eyes shut. After some time, doing nothing seems like a great effort, so I make my way back to the car to retrieve the book I don’t really want to read. I stick my upper body through one of the back windows and stretch an arm to grab the book. I hear a motor in the distance Ruth Niemiec / Tiger Snakes (continued) 17

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and so I move quickly, shuffling backwards, away from the car. In the distance is a white truck. I call out and say help is in sight. I wave both arms around over my head and in front of my body. He jogs out and stops by my side frantically starts waving too. We start saying hey, quietly and then louder and louder the nearer the truck gets to us. The truck moves closer into view and we realise its carrying livestock. We look at one another. I stopped eating meat months ago. I tell him I don’t want to stop a livestock truck and he shrugs. He tells me it might be our only chance for a while. He reminds me we are out of water and that it’s bloody hot. Yeah. I nod. The truck comes to a stop and the driver, a grey bearded bloke in a faded green singlet asks us if we’re okay. He shakes his head and tells us we should have a spare tyre. I agree with him, then drop out of the conversation. I make my way back towards my tree and rock. I’ve got to get away from the bleating. He jogs over to me and tells me the truck driver can drop us off at the nearest servo and from there we can call for help and source a tyre. My eyes are closed and my throat is dry. I swallow and I tell him there’s no way I am getting on a livestock truck. No way in hell. He tells me to stop being dramatic and I tell him to go without me, I will wait. I sense his hesitation to leave me by myself, but he’s too tired for a fight and knows I’m stubborn, so he tells me I should suit myself and he will see me when he gets back. He walks towards the truck and turns back one more time to ask if I’m sure I want to stay, with the snakes he adds. I don’t look at him. I tell him yes. The truck brakes ease off and the bleating fades into the distance along with the rumble of the motor. I hop off the rock and kick a pebble. Nah, nothing to do but sit and wait. Ruth Niemiec / Tiger Snakes Ruth Niemiec writes and lives in Melbourne, Australia. She received her BA majoring in Professional Writing at Victoria University. She has been published in various places in print and online. She works in theatre management. 18

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redefining femininity 19

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They’re afraid of me. The people, A glance of the mirror- and I could tell, An elegant visage- no contrast of them With five fingers and toes- I stand confused, The abhorrence in their eyes My body bruised. Do not speak- it’s unwise. To the liberals and literates- I seek help, For the agony of Injustice, they’ve felt. But I witness, no hands extend, For thy sewed mouth shut, on my rend I cut my hand- to verify my blood, Red and rutilant, dripping down the mud Elated I was- to find it regular, Only less wrathful and whited sepulchre Gathered my nerve- to them I went, Why this hatred, why this resent? To my question they silently nod, ‘Is that ‘cause I pray to a different God?’ SAFIYAT NASEEM The Same Blood Sayat Naseem is a nal year law student from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India. She has a profound interest in works of literature and Art. Her previous works have been published in The National Herald and The Muslim Vibe among others. Check out her short verse poems, writings and sketches on her Instagram handle @sayat_naseem 20

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outnumbered 21

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ALYSSA CRESSOTTI ignition 1 I see you watching. I’m trying to be subtle in my performance but we both know I’m a liar. Well, shit. Say something. 2 I think about the girl you fucked down south on your grandmama’s couch. She’s married now. Not to you. She thinks about it, too. 3 If I die, I want to haunt the streets I roamed as a kid, as a young lady, as a woman. I want little girls to play Bloody Mary, but with hubcaps and coffee cups. 4 There was a lot of nervous energy that night. It’s what happens when grown people play kiddie games. You want me to stay, don’t you? Always. 5 I haven’t seen you in a few years, but the digital approximation of your face is enough to conjure you in dreams and in silent moments. During rides down long stretches of road. (continued) 22

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6 We hurt each other. You more than me, but hurt just the same, nonetheless. I warned you. I told you that if you kept talking, I might get used to hearing nice words from bad boys. 7 My heart is more than the stone of a fruit. More than the peach pit you whiled around, more than its clacking against your teeth. More than the swipe of spit up the back of your forearm. 8 If you came back, I wouldn’t even know what to do with you. What do I feed you? Do I need to take you for walks? Are you even crate-trained? 9 I dunno if you’ve noticed, but the world is ending. Should we get coffee? Alyssa Cressotti / ignition Alyssa Cressotti is a writer, editor, and media maker in New York City. With a cup of coee and an eye-roll, Alyssa channels classic Bea Arthur (if Dorothy Zbornak spent her daylight hours cooing at baby animals being cute on the Internet). She wavers between erce sarcasm and sweet, girlish charm; her nails will be painted, but she is not to be taken lightly. Additionally, she plays caregiver to one fat rabbit. Her published work includes proles, reportage, feature stories, Q&As, book reviews, poetry, and ction. 23

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Paul Tanner various forms of arrogance they made you redundant and you went back to your hometown, back to your mum’s and when you went out, which was a lot, because sitting in your old bedroom with grey hairs was too sad, you kept running into old acquaintances, never friends, it was always the meatheads who’d bogwash you and the other geeks at school, and they’d be all like: what you doing back here? didn’t you get a big fancy job? the twee plebs, you were on 8 pound an hour and had a shoebox apartment in Liverpool, it’s not like you moved to Wall Street. anyway when you told them what happened they were still cruel: they didn’t mock you or laugh. no, worse they only went and sympathised: to have them of all people tilt their head, squint and go aww? that was a most patronising knife, (continued) 24

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Paul Tanner / various forms of arrogance skewering both your adult and childhood hearts: one on top of the other like satay and you went back to your old bedroom in your mum’s house and yeah, it was still sad and yeah, you were even greyer, but well erm … fuck. just FUCK, you know? Paul Tanner has been earning minimum wage, and writing about it, for too long. Was shortlisted for the Erbacce 2020 Poetry Prize. “Shop Talk” was published last year by Penniless Press. “No Refunds: Poems and cartoons from your local supermarket” is out now, from Alien Buddha Press. My star sign is Libido. Hobbies include pillage and colouring in. 25

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DENISE BERGER Retrospective When I was 19 I did a string of ballet turns all the way around the Monet room at MOMA. The guard looked straight ahead, giving no indication that he saw me. I was lucky to get a nice one; it could just as easily have been one of those authoritarian women with her hair in a low bun and a permanent scowl. I wanted to tell him, “This would make Monet happy”. It’s what I honestly believed. Monet aside, it made me happy to embody --- literally --- the colors at Giverny at once bright and blurred, the roundness of the flowers, the breeze moving through the grass, the light. It made me happy to let joy wave through me, let it become instanti-ated in the world. It felt almost like an act of worship; I felt that thankful to Monet (and to MOMA, and to Art) for releasing what it felt like to be free, for giving me that touchstone. Objectively I knew it was a cinematic thing to do, spinning through the gallery. I was keenly aware of the visuals (even if no one was watching). But it was more than just aesthetics. It was actually my reality in those days, stealing moments out of my life just to be me, the way people go to a movie in the middle of a busy week. Now 30-ish years later, I find myself across the country at MOCA, in a room full of 26 (continued)

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Ellsworth Kelly color field paintings. I have that same visceral response, but all I want to do is be perfectly still. The vastness of a single color, the expanse, the open-ness to possibility, the limitlessness, the ability to fly and the quiet invitation to come look more closely. This is my life now. I recognize it, I know I’m home, and yet it’s still new enough that I just stand there inhaling it. The brightness, and the subtlety. The green could go on forever, or it doesn’t have to. Nothing is externally im-posed, not lines or shapes or extra colors. It is its own reference point. There’s end-less space to just be, and the energy of movement is endless too --- floating, stretch-ing, soaring, air rushing in my ears, ballet turns for miles; and stasis. There’s a feeling of the sacred in standing here too, not quite an act of worship because I’m not de-pendent in the same way, but an act of reverence for sure. Thank you (canvas in Kelly green), the Spirit in me recognizes the Spirit in you. Namaste. Denise Berger / Retrospective Denise Berger is a Los Angeles based writer, with a background in dance and anthropology. She contributed multiple chapters to the Peoples of the World series, and won Honorable Mention for poetry in the Writers Digest Competition. Articles and creative essays have appeared in Heritage Southwest Jewish Press, Detroit Jewish News, Beth Am Review, and Shambles Literary Journal. 27

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CRAIG FINLAY Holy Colors Holy colors - deep autumn orange and yellows and reds. I can imagine strapping a crown of twigs to my head, and a mask for my face, and dancing the round dances through fields pregnant with corn and soybeans, until I collapse roadside in spent, orgasmic satiation. A dance of submission, of humble, beseeching desperation in this insulating and forgotten tract of Illinois. A place no one travelled unless it was home, or else accidentally. And then to make these offerings. To hang a deer from its back legs, to open its throat, to quench the thirst of the gods in the grass. To return a stillborn child to the soft earth by the new moon. To return to work in the hammer factory of the field on Monday, while heaving Gaia breathes into life the dawn’s fog, the distant deer on the frost-flecked grass, the steam of the Casey’s breakfast pizza, the colors of our grandparents’ dens. So dark, that blood-black wood. 28

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John Singer Sargent Finds the Wind Americans are always shocked that they breathe differently abroad. In hindsight—it’s so very obvious. Does the water from the tap not taste different even on the coasts? That’s not what Madame X was thinking as she looked off to the side of that room. German air, Swiss air. John Singer Sargent - and we know not to trust a man with three names - famously brought jars of Tuscan air with him when he moved to London. It was the inspiration for Dracula’s boxes of soil - Bram Stoker saw the painter with his face buried in a jar, crying for home. Later, when John asked, the winds started. Waves of them, lashing the rain into London, clearing the London Fog for a time. He released himself and began a slow spiral upward. How the crowds cheered, watching the winds hold John Singer Sargent to her breast so he could feed. Craig Finlay is a poet and librarian currently living in rural southern Oklahoma. His debut collection, The Very Small Mammoths of Wrangel Island, is forthcoming from Urban Farmhouse Press. 29

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spilt milk 30

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BRIAN YAPKO Lapis Lazuli middle of the night insomniac i lay awake rote-recalling useless trivia [what is lapis lazuli?] sweat staining my pillow anguishing if my knowledge-base is competitive/acceptable [what is porphyry?] i studied art and architecture i am the apotheosis, the veritable master of those questions [what is carrara marble?] i am an educated man -- maybe too much so. [what is corinthian?] but so alone so damned alone [what is romanesque?] i cannot remember how to be happy, i cannot remember [what is the hagia sophia?] i cannot remember why i am here, or should be, or how to get unlost [what is the answer?] what is the answer? Brian Yapko is a lawyer whose poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Grand Little Things, Society of Classical Poets, Poetica, Chained Muse, Gareld Lake Review, Tempered Runes Press, Auroras and Blossoms, Showbear Family Circus, Sparks of Calliope and as a rst prize winner in The Abstract Elephant. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his husband, Jerry, and their canine child, Bianca. 31

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EMILY ROSE MILLER This Womanhood is fresh scars inflicted by myself and a bandaid rash on my hip next to a floating tampon string trailing like a lure into my prickly bush. It is marinating in the too-hot bathtub filled with the disappointing remains of a four-dollar bath bomb, gone just as quickly as I lost my self-esteem. It is plucking clumps of once-dried-now-sticky-again blood off the surface of the water and wiping them on the stained porcelain to be cleaned later. It is mistaking the scab on my leg (from shaving, of course) for a bug and watching the skin on my stomach roll as I slouch up in panic. It is nails just a tad too long and too jagged to pleasure myself with, and not having the energy to bother with the uncomfortable dildo I hide under my bed. It is the itch of my sunburned arms and the tan (continued) 32

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line I scowl at across my crotch and across my boobs. It is wishing I’d have enough misguided strength to gouge my skin again with the razor I balanced on the edge of the tub for this very reason. It is staring blankly at my browned nipples, instead, wishing they wouldn’t sag quite so much. This womanhood. Womanhood. Womanhood. Emily Rose Miller / This Womanhood Emily Rose Miller is a Saint Leo University graduate where she received her BA in English with a specialization in creative writing. Her work has been published in The Dollhouse Magazine, Parhelion Literary Magazine, Red Cedar Review, and Inklette Magazine, among others. This particular poem is her boldest and most honest yet and she is thrilled that it has found a home at Parliament Lit. Find Emily online at, on Instagram @actualprincessemily, or in real life cuddling with her ve cats. 33

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N. Nagy residues of memory I will fill my lungs, balloon them with air. I will pinch my nose and dare to leap into the depths of truth. I will give myself, mind and body, to the currents, letting it pull me where they may. But, oh shit, am I scared. It’s photos that bubble up first, the collection of them through our years to-gether and I guess it makes sense that it’s not the moments I had with you that conjure but the photos that I’m left with because that’s what’s real and it’s what I have to hold on to as tangible because I need something of you to hold and memories are like a mist that escapes your grasp when you reach for it and, as you know, too, from proofing my lectures for me -- I was so proud to have your touch to those, by the way, and your touch to all of me, of course -- as you know memories can be fabricated, turned into a hodgepodge of reali-ty / fantasy / realityfantasy like: did you kiss me in the forest, did you stop on the trail to take hold of me and press your lips and body to mine as I clutched at your arms willing them to never let go or was it in the alleyway with coffee still lingering on our tongues or is the mist of memory tickling the truth here and fucking with the circuitries of my brain, fabricating images and sensations out of desire alone but even so, even so, with the photos I don’t have to worry, the photos ARE truth that you were there with me once and that I could make (continued) 34

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you smile -- I did, I have evidence -- and damn it, I want to make you smile again, you were happy with me, do you remember like the photographs, do you think of those happy times I wonder this all the time and I attended a talk at Princeton with Duane Michals who knew about proof and knew truth could be found inside of a darkroom in a mix of chemicals and I desperately wanted you to be there next to me our seats so close like they were one so our legs pressed together tight like we are one body, three legs or sitting on your lap if you’d let me, your hands on, your lips on, your fingers in as the old photographer shared his career, shared the image with his scrawl below that read: This photograph is my proof. There was that afternoon when things were still good be-tween us, and she embraced me. and you’ll know that I do as I always have and it’s not just the talk that I wanted you there for but the growing list that spools for miles now of all the things that would make you smile like did you know there is a School of Disembodied Po-etics and I have some puns, too, and I tell you all of these in my head, of course, and we laugh and I laugh because you laugh because it’s beautiful when your guard is down and I’ll always be grateful that I got to see you in moments with your guard down because it’s rare and I treat it as a priceless gift and these are my truths and, I know, I let the truths spill once before but in a meanspirited N. Nagy / residues of memory 35 (continued)

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48 N. Nagy / residues of memory We can skip the bio, right? It’s optional, right? way that time and I know it hurt you because I wanted it to hurt you but it’s a hurt you deserved because you always forget that I am here and real so I strike at you to remind you, to scream to you to lookseefeel me so now I just need to hear that you feel it that you think of me that you have lists and photographs for me, too Let it spill, will you please? Don’t hold it silent. Let it all spill out. For me. It’s time.

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tough times 49

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Rachel Stempel Gag Gifts I Sell Myself I’m about as female as a blood clot or bubblegum. I always want something bad to happen. How selfish, I know, but we all think it. I start watching live camera feeds online. I’m interested only in ones from Ukraine but I’m scared I’ll see my mother. I don’t know why— why I’m scared why I think I’ll recognize my mother why I’m telling you this. I find razorblades repulsive but not as much as babies. If I can convince myself I’m dying, I’m dying and I’ll go guzzling smoke & hyaluronic. Coughing hurts the alter ego I left in seventh grade algebra with up-skirt shots of Kate Moss. I’ve gone through three rib cages since. This one is titanium, installed after my father’s third near-death experience. I heave like a horse in hopes it will spark like flint an argument. I close my eyes and know exactly the perimeter of affected tissue. (continued) 36

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I’ve a steady hand. I’ve an unsteady gag reflex. I could impale myself with the perfect-diameter tube, serrated and gouge a floating gap between neck and body. I’m already dead from the neck down—a party trick for the virtual age. I could customize the instrument like a strap-on too perfect for a soon-to-be-widowed orifice or a goblin shark’s jaw— both easily dislodged. I promise you, Reader, I won’t go rogue. I have high hopes for a virtual age installment of rapture. I like miscellaneous best. I’d clean outside my windows if it would change your mind. I’d steady one foot on shelving and another on your chest. Am I crushing you? Do you want me to? (continued) Rachel Stempel / Gag Gifts I Sell Myself 37

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Rachel Stempel is a genderqueer Jewish poet and educator. They were the winner of the 2020 Matt Clark Editors' Choice Prize in ction from New Delta Review and a nalist in the 2020 Conduit Books & Ephemera Minds on Fire Open Book Prize. Their work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Nasiona, Into the Void, Penn Review, and elsewhere. Born in Ukraine, they currently live on Long Island with their Flemish Giant-mix, Marguerite. I mistake small dogs for infants in my peripherals. I’ve already told you how I feel about babies. I’ve noticed a lot of small dogs on YouTube. Some dogs are rather ugly— you can tell when a dog was a clown in a past life. I advise against yearning, specifically star-yearning. Specifically, if you’re afraid of kidney stones. The archive is incomplete but has already recorded how I wax and wane in front of a floor- length mirror. It’s the dance I do best with myself. I dream a zipper materializes on my back but I can’t reach it. At least I don’t exist at the intersection of art and technology. Rachel Stempel / Gag Gifts I Sell Myself 38

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CONNOR DOYLE let go, you’re choking us Connor Doyle is a photographer and lmmaker based in the Chicagoland area. Using a number of analog lm formats, Doyle’s work captures daily life through his native Northern Illinois. In "let go, you're choking us", Doyle reects the Trump administration's denial of its failures after the 2020 presidential election and the caustic national results of that denial. Previously featured in the Parliament Literary Journal, Connor’s work has also been published in the Prairie Light Review, The Hole In The Head Review, and the Burningword Literary Journal. 39

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STEPHEN KINGSNORTH What You See Is this revealing truth displayed, unhealthy busy-body trade, excuse to revel, innocence, or proof my evil not alone? The character learned of myself, dismay of haughty moral code, self-justified, ordinary, or everyone with common traits? How would I know unless laid bare, but too late then, my guilt withdraw, manipulated into scare, the boredom of confessional. So what you see is what you get, the writing on the wall or tin - if that offends or less attracts, I’m happy with accepting friends. The questions posed tell what you hear, your motivation, clear exposed, investigative journalist - is that for fee or public good? A politician on the make, the secret service, classified, control of state, behind the scene? The space too crowded for my thoughts. If you don’t like the hat I wear, but choose to lie, the white in wait, I like gentle humility, scaled honesty for friendship paced. So lay the needle, kidney bowl, if deed abandoned or complete; we dance along, masqued ball in play, my frame in step as swing away. 40

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What sprite from bloody vessels streaks when vaccines are brought to the vein of flesh beneath the dermis skein? Which fanlights break within the brain, far from the zygomatic arch, so synapse finds another course? How can I tell what I don’t know, some legend wrapped around my core, imbibed from youth, spymaster’s child? The training not to bury truth, but to deny my commonwealth, incorporation of that stealth. That’s why the couch is used to tap unanswered questions, laid out pose, the frontal lobe now centrespread. Beyond the veil, cortex arraigned, my stories ranged, sac fluid womb, to now, feared episodes ahead, in unadulterated form. If only I could break within, find art and poetry on whim, might I disrobe my Perdita? Perdita Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had over 200 pieces published by on-line poetry sites, including The Parliament Literary Journal, printed journals and anthologies. 41

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42 going through the family album

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50 Richard Thompson is too humble to write his own bio but the editor feels too strongly to let his talents and accolated go unrecognized. Richard Thompson is a 3D artist/ Generalist and an award winning educator sharing his talents with students at Middlesex College in Edison, NJ where he is a professor and coordinator of Gaming and Animation, and the curriculum coordinator for Media Arts & Design.. Catch a glimpse of some of the spectacular creations he inspires in his students at or at IG @mcc_gaminganimation For every issue of The Parliament Literary Journal, along with our themed call for submissions of writings and art, we host a contest based on the artwork of a local artist. From the submissions, our editor picks one winner and we ask our artist to pick one, as well. Our Winter 2021 issue’s contest art, entitled “La Donna” was supplied by the phenomenally talented Richard Thompson of Highland Park, New Jersey. The instructions to submitters were simple: “They say pictures are worth 1000 words but you only have 500.” And with that as our only limitation on their interpretations of Richard’s art, we opened the call. The responses came quick and plentiful and were simply delightful. We ached at even determining a Top 10, let alone choosing a winner apiece. In the end, we selected the three we knew we couldn’t ever let go. We invite you, before reading the winners stories and poems, to take a look at “La Donna” and imagine her story for yourself, as well.

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Richard Thompson La Donna 51

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Liz Hart Open to the Wind when I die I want to be lying under the lilacs vulva open to the wind dry as the dirt around the azaleas purple as the primrose how many days of the blue jays protest hawking at my lazy arms to throw the seed before a neighbor notices my bare ass frozen to the patio slipped while watering the clematis give all my money to the Audubon Society it’s all buried out under the tulip bulbs old pickle jars, some I didn’t even bother washing out first don’t burn my bones up tie me into the roots of an oak tree let me become the worms and the mycelium all but the little bits of flesh peeled from my back when the fire fighters drag me off the balcony it won’t be a long time until I die plenty of minutes to hang succulents from little iron rods around the door clip off daisy heads and let them fall listening for the sound of the toddlers delighted by the rain of petals EDITOR’S WINNER 52

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Liz Hart is a full time queer, mother, wife and hobby farmer living in Portland, Oregon and constantly begging life for reasons. Writing isn't everything, but it's the best something that there might be. Published in Oregon Humanities, Line Zero, and creator of one chapbook entitled "Sacred Names" from Fir Tree Press. Liz was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2019, but lost of course. Comment on the piece: Richard Thompson's painting was immediately inspiring. It's whimsical, colorful, fragrant, it tells a story. The story it told me was the bittersweet musings of an impossibly old woman, cured like jerky, intense as a circus re, yet lovable and in love. In love with the life she had built and ready to die in exactly her own way. The piece is in rst person, I imagine her sitting around drinking brandy with her friends playing euchre for quarters and ranting this into the night. The radio on in the background reminding her of a county fair somewhere near her hometown. The piece was cathartic and aspirational, writing it I thought damn, I would like to be this woman. But who ever could? Richard Thompson (then interpreted thru me) made her too perfect. Liz Hart / Open to the Wind 53

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(continued) Justin Byrne Symphony of Flowers ARTIST’S WINNER The stone balcony has been fading For years. The crack has been sneaking up the wall Since she moved in. The color has been missing from her hovel Since he passed. Day in and day out brought nothing, Nothing but a hollow feeling, That she never felt like she would break from. Her world was dull. Then as winter yielded to spring, The flower shops began blooming on the streets. One with lilacs, another with tulips, and several with Lavender and wisteria that popped in the sun. Slowly, very slowly, color began seeping into her View again. She would walk out on the fading balcony, In front of the cracking, bare wall, With tea in hand, 54

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To catch a glimpse at the symphony of flowers. After two or so weeks of luminated street vendors Peddling petals to pedestrians passing by, The grandmotherly figure shuffled on her slippers And slipped out the faded blue door. She was going to only buy one flower. After two or so years of a lifeless dinner table And lack of conversation between television programs, She was ready to bring back some life. She would only buy the one And put it beside his photo. She arrived at the vendor directly below her balcony, Who greeted her with a gentle smile, And gestured towards the vases on the cart. The old lady nodded and began to inspect, Up close, The arrangements in front of her. There were yellow chrysanthemums, Pink roses, (continued) Justin Byrne / Symphony of Flowers 55

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And tulips that faded from to pink to white. Just like the cotton candy he always loved to buy her. She returned home with the single flower in hand To place by his photo on the bedside table. The old lady grabbed his chipped coffee mug, Filled it water, And set it beside the photo that she woke up next to. He was smiling, She returned the gesture with moist eyes While the tulip rested beside him. The room finally seemed to gain luster. She grabbed her purse and left again. The stone balcony shines like rainbow, For the first time in years. The crack hides behind a waterfall of flowers Since she smiled with him. The color has returned to her home Since she regained purpose. Justin Byrne / Symphony of Flowers (continued) 56

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Justin Byrne is an elementary teacher in Middle Tennessee who has a strong passion for writing poetry. Justin earned his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with dual minors of Music and English from Middle Tennessee State University. Justin’s work can also be seen in Plants & Poetry and in multiple books--including Global Warming--by Poets’ Choice. Justin can be found on his website Day in and day out children stare up, In awe and amazement, At the old lady’s balcony. Her world was bright. Justin Byrne / Symphony of Flowers 57

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Tatia Veikkola Her Pale Envelope (continued) ARTIST’S WINNER Grandma was impatiently staring at my bedroom windows. I knew it even without opening the old wooden shutters and looking out at her colorful balcony. Still in bed, I was remembering grandma’s latest bedtime story, which she sent me yesterday. Every day, she would write a short adventure story for me, put it in a pale envelope, insert old wooden cloth pins all around it to give the letter some weight and throw it to my balcony. The distance between our windows was just ten feet. When I would go to my balcony, the pale envelope and grandma’s kind eyes would greet me every morning. After the greet-ings, grandma would ask me how I liked her story and once again remind me that I should not open the envelope until the bedtime. Then we would talk about the topics which interested me very much. For example, we talked about soccer, a massive box of Lego recently bought by my parents and adventure books. I was always happy to hear, that grandma knew every team and player I mentioned and that she would always agree with me whatever I said about soccer. Though, I have never seen any soccer game on her TV screen, which was perfectly visible from her room to mine. That’s how we lived dur-ing lockdown in Italy, seven years old me and the grandma. She was not my real grandmother though, but everyone in the neighborhood called her grandma. She loved colors, flowers and writing. That is what she has always told me. 58

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Tatia Veikkola / Her Pale Envelope Although, as a boy I was not especially fond of flowers, I was sure that her balcony was the most beautiful in the whole neighborhood. I could see those rainbow colors and her beautiful stories in those flowers. While watering, the grandma would tell me that as soon as the lockdown was over, she would take me to a soccer game and an ice-cream parlor to treat ourselves with a sweet delight. We loved talking about it. In our imagination we would fly over the old narrow streets of our small town, gliding like shadows over the brick-colored roofs of rustic cafes, shops and very old, but stunning fountains, where water, reflecting the sunrays, would shine with a thousand sparkles. Oh, we absolutely loved dreaming about it! Though one morning I could not see her pale envelope or her smiling eyes. Al-most all day long I waited for grandma in my balcony, impatiently staring at her win-dows. But she would not appear there to water her beloved flowers or throw her pale envelope towards me and talk happily about our future adventures together. I was told that she went to heaven. Whatever kind of place heaven was, I was sure that grandma went on an adventure there, perhaps even visiting ice-cream parlors and at-tending soccer games. “But how could she go without me?!” I was devasted. For a long time after, I would longingly wait for her pale envelope to appear in my balcony. Tatia Veikkola is a writer and a self-prescribed citizen of the world. She attained her Master’s degree in Science and Economics from the University of Eastern Finland. Her interests include history, learning about dierent cultures, as well as practicing Korean sword ghting. She lives with her husband in Helsinki, Finland, where she emigrated to from Rustavi, Georgia. Find her on Instagram: @tatiaveikkola 59

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The truth has spilled.