Borderline

A cutting-edge persona poetry journal obsessed with coloring outside of the lines & pushing the limits of existence to new heights.

PSA

Just an announcement that the 2 poems totally dominating the Borderline website since the new issue dropped in its entirety are by women.

Just a reminder that this should be the norm rather than the exception.

Just a thank you to Nettis Farris and Megan Falley for reminding the world what the right words in the hands of the right women can do.

#‎wordwavefeminism‬

Vol. 3 - Autumn/Winter 2014 [Bucky Sinister]

The Gray Side of the Moon

1

Dorothy walks into Rainbow Grocery
wearing her ruby red Doc Martens.

I’m looking for the good witch,
she yells out.

Everyone
raises her hand
or points to someone.

2

I watched The Wizard of Oz on a black and white TV when I was young.
I had no idea Dorothy’s world became color once she landed in Oz.

It was long before people like us had VCRs.
Either you watched it when it came on once a year,
or you missed it.

3

At the age of fifteen,
I knew what Uzi fire sounded like,
but I had no idea what it was like to kiss a girl.

There was a weird window of time in the ’80s
when the gangs were better armed than the cops.
The fistfights stopped and the shootouts began.
Breakdancers traded in linoleum squares
for crack corners,
the windmills and headspins
gave way to jump-ins and drive-bys.

Crack
turned the streets
into a pinball game of teenagers running for cover.
Glass broke and people screamed
like the city went on multiball mode.
You wouldn’t always see who was shooting,
you just ran in the direction everyone else did.

I hid where I could,
behind cars and trash cans,
running into the subway when it was close.

I wanted out.
I wanted to leave Boston,
go back home to Arkansas
where my friends
were building hot rods one piece at a time,
and dating girls who liked fast cars and drank wine coolers.

When you’re a teenager,
it’s easy to feel like you’re going to die a virgin.
But during that time of my life,
I was really worried about the dying part.

4

I made it back to Arkansas.
I was shell-shocked
from years of street evangelism
and the violence that came with it.
None of it made sense anymore.

I quit the church for the trailer park.
Someone made me a Jack and Coke.
I looked in the red plastic cup
and saw a tornado.

5

I heard Dark Side of the Moon
for the first time on cassette.
Same goes for The Wall and
Wish You Were Here.

Later the first guy I knew with a CD player had a copy of Animals,
and I heard that for the first time coming down from an acid trip,
alone in his living room while he fucked his girlfriend down the hall.

I couldn’t tell if it was their sounds
or the sounds on the album
or the sounds in my head
and I’m still not sure.

6

they say
if you put on a DVD of The Wizard of Oz and turn the sound down,
and put on a CD of Dark Side of the Moon at the same time,
they totally sync up.

they say
that if you look in the trees in the enchanted forest,
you can see one of the stagehands
who hung himself from one of the prop trees.

they say
that buddy ebsen was supposed to be the tin man
but he was allergic to the makeup.

They say
if you tattoo your face
you automatically get a GA check.

They say
if you smoke heroin instead of shooting it
you won’t get a habit

They say
live fast die young
leave a good looking corpse.

7

The tornado set me down in California,
a world of color compared to my monotone childhood.

Jr. College was grad school for young drug addicts,
an accelerated program for learning multiple ways of getting fucked up.

I balanced my time between cocaine, mushrooms, LSD, and 100 proof vodka.
At the end of the semester I got my grades from the school in the mail.
I had forgotten about that part,
the whole going-to-class thing.

I found poets
who shot dope in the bathrooms,
smoked speed in the alley,
and smoked pot like it was legal.

They were brilliant sometimes:
brokedown angels
beatdown revolutionaries
scarfaced prom queens
glass pipe prophets
quicktounged hustlers
slowmouthed drunks

When I heard a good poem
color came to my life briefly.

There were no camera phones
No Flip Minos
If it was happening
and you weren’t there
you missed it.

Fuck Dorothy for wanting to go home.
Why did she want to go back to her black and white world?
What was she going back to?
She found the land of color and wanted out right away.
The tornado was what saved me.

Laying in my bed
coming down off coke,
my heart beating like a bat’s wing trapped inside me,
the euphoria gone,
I comforted myself in the idea
that I was too far from home to go back.

8

Every summer,
the American Tornado dropped Dorothies into San Francisco.
We were the unwashed and faded-gray version of the Lollipop Guild,
greeting them upon arrival.

This is for the little girl
who would rather have a meth problem
than a weight problem.

This is for the little boy
who tattooed his face
so no one would touch him that way anymore.

This is for every little boy and girl
who stood between home and a tornado,
weighed the options,
and took a chance on the twister.

9

AIDs took the first friends I made,
in a synchronized fashion,
one after the other,
diving into nowhere like Busby Berkley swimmers.
From there it was a variety show of ODs, suicides, and freak accidents

10

The lion wanted courage
The scarecrow wanted a brain
The tin man wanted a heart

Rachel wanted fake tits.
people gave her shit
like it was different from the tattoos
and the piercings everyone else got.

They were perfect.
The wizard knew what he was doing
when he slipped those in.

I never met a lion
but a met a kid with cat whiskers tattooed on his face

I never met a scarecrow
but I met people who shot speed and talked conspiracy all night

I never met a tin man
but I saw junkies frozen mid-walk in a statue nod

11

Fake Tit Haiku #1

I don’t care they’re fake
Whoever made them: brilliant!
Fake or not, awesome

Fake Tit Haiku #2

I loved your fake tits
fake or real they are still tits
who does not love tits?

Fake Tit Haiku #3

Silicone fakies
Saline packets too fancy
I’ll take frozen pea bags

12

The room spun above me.
I was back in the tornado,
spun by the winds of whiskey and bad decisions.

Above me
I could see the bottom of the bottle through the glass of the coffee table top.
All the bourbon that remained was one halo mockingly over my head.

The store was about to close and I was out of liquor.

Too drunk to stand up
but not drunk enough
to stop giving a shit.

I lost my faith in whiskey right then,
the same way I stopped believing in God on that hot night in Arkansas.
There would never be enough whiskey in the bottle again.
A river wouldn’t satisfy me.

I was no longer going anywhere or from anywhere.
It was just me and the swirl.

13

Rachel told me to leave the house

go somewhere and dry out.

I trusted her
I trusted those fake tits
They were at once,
a lie and the truth.
A perfect duality.

14

The house fell on Rachel.
She caught strep throat,
it turned into a staph infection, and she was dead three days later.

Rachel died two weeks after I left the punk house.
At her services,
pinhole-pupiled punks,
staggering drunks, and
bong-ripped mourners
stumbled past to give respects.

I held out for a while
went to my favorite bar
I said make it be tomorrow
and drank glass after glass of twister-drinks
one last time.

15

The first AA meeting I went to
I saw all these people from my past
you were there
and you were there
and you and you and you

16

Dorothy’s sick
kicking dope by candlelight
in the squat.

Her arms
are a mess of in pick-marks
and homemade tattoos.
An abscess stands in the crook of her arm
like a leaning barn by the side of the road
she wants to get it checked out
but is afraid they’ll amputate it.

She holds Toto close and cries,
I just want to get back to Kansas.

Cat-Whisker-Face looks up from his guitar.
Shit, girl, he says,
you’re on the wrong side of Portrero Hill.

—————————————————————————————

This poem is included in “Time Bomb Snooze Alarm” from Write Bloody Publishing, which you can purchase here.

This poem originally appeared in The Rumpus.

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Borderline turning 3 at the end of 2013, we wanted to celebrate by featuring one of our all-time favorite persona poems, and Bucky Sinister was gracious enough to give us the go-ahead to do so.  A million thanks to him for helping us commemorate this milestone with such a soul-shaking piece.

Vol. 3 - Autumn/Winter 2014 [J. Bradley]

From “A Ballet of Growth”

a.

I press little girl’s palm against the mirror. The glass quells the science of want beneath her skin.

There are “I miss you’s” hidden in the little girl’s bones. There are “I miss you’s” hidden in the little girl’s nerves. There is smoke and fire between her cells, the touch of her mother’s smoldering fingertips chopped and stored and hoarded.

b.

I tell my arms and palms to make little girl’s arms and palms act like scales. The left palm is want. The right palm is need. Our arms act as if the straps holding the scales above the ground have snapped.

c.

Little girl asks why I never address her by her name, why I call her it, never she. You are meat, I say. You are meat and bone. You are hull and tar. You are wood. I hold the twine that moves you. I am the fire that will swallow you cell by cell.

Little girl tells my arms and palms to forget the weight, to forget her, to let go of her skin and muscle and nerve and bone, to allow her to collect summer, to scatter the corpses of leaves without me watching and wanting. That is want, I tell her. That is need, little girl says. You are too young to truly know need I whisper to the last of the fireflies.

Vol. 3 - Autumn/Winter 2014 [Ian Bodkin]
from “Field Study of Drunk #6”

Vol. 3 - Autumn/Winter 2014 [Ian Bodkin]

from “Field Study of Drunk #6”

Vol. 3 - Autumn/Winter 2014 [Brennan Bestwick]

My Student Loans Meet Me In A Dark Alley

First of the month, empty those pockets,
Mr. College Grad, Mr. Dollar Menu,

Mr. Nothin’ To Show For None of It.

Don’t you ball your fists when you talk to me.
That English degree you got don’t step that hard.
The Bard never boxed, bud, and neither do you.

Now listen up.  I ain’t happy with you, pal.
I’ve heard the shit you say about me. 
All your bitch and moan. We ain’t good.

You can’t afford a decent meal when I come
calling, huh? And your mom and pop still
put a roof over your head ‘cause four years
wasn’t enough for you? All because I’m a monster.

Now you work in warehouses and cubicles,
and they ain’t publishing houses,
and you never wrote no American classic,

and this is all cause you got bills,
‘cause you owe me. That’s what you say.

The burden of privilege is heavy, ain’t it?
Opportunity’s so hard to accept when somebody
gives you a shot at something? Sound right?

But shit’s good, kid.  You ain’t scared anymore.
I ask about you.  I follow my investments, see.
I remember the shy kid too uncomfortable
with his own imagination to let it run.

I remember the classroom that unleashed it
‘cause you met me, that you learned
to grow without apologizing for it.

I saw your parents on the day of your graduation,
you know? Grandma, too.  The grins they gave
the camera.  The whole mess of it.  And I was proud.
Proud of the stuck up punk that never thanked me.

Not everybody gets this.  The debt, the trust, the chance.

Earn what you owe me.  When you leave here today
and a burger joint drive-thru has you counting every bill
I took, remember how fortunate hungry can feel. Own it.

Now give me your watch, ‘cause you got no more
time to waste.  You’re welcome.

Vol. 3 - Autumn/Winter 2014 [Matt Hart]

Vol. 3 - Autumn/Winter 2014 [Matt Hart]

Vol. 3 - Autumn/Winter 2014 [Nettie Farris]

Vol. 3 - Autumn/Winter 2014 [Nettie Farris]