Two Poems
by Sheila Estrada


Tires spinning steadily on the street.
Tires stop.
Clicking stops.
A squeaking door opens.
A quick click then slushy snow.
The tapping against the runner.
A sigh, the door closes.
A fast rush to the stoplight.
Door opens.
Heels hit the ground.
Door slams.
On to the next one.


The night’s cold
Wind cutting through the goosebumps
Beneath the fishnets
Foot warmers don’t seem warm
inside plastic open-toed shoes
Hennies wearing off and the LQ’s closed.

The Bath
By Sheila Estrada

I open the door to the hotel room, one of the many I’ve been to in the last six months. I can be myself here, whoever that is. I step in and let the door close behind me. I slide the sensor on the wall halfway to keep the room lit dimly. I don’t want to see the room because it’s the same as all the others I’ve been unprivileged to stay in, elegantly furnished to hide not-so-elegant living. There’s no sign of life here, except the suitcase. The corner peeks from under the bed’s comforter on the floor. The lotion is on the nightstand and the makings of my work costume, the make-up bag, the thigh highs on the bed.

I walk in the corner-carved kitchenette, listening to my high heels hitting the linoleum. The sound irritates me because I’ve been turning tricks to survive since I was fourteen, and that click click sound reminds me I’m in character. I grab the door of the fridge looking for something cold, wet and alcoholic to quench the thirst, to forget the stress from conducting this evening’s business. As I reach for the beer bottle that promises to do the job, I feel the cool air from the fridge across my cheek. Excited, I grab it and bite off the top -- a little trick I learned to do in the New York sleaze scene to get attention.

Putting the green ice-cold bottle to my mouth, I swallow long and hard, letting my whole body take in the coolness. I put the bottle on the counter and as I grab the cap, I realize the beer’s half empty. But I don’t care because I needed it. I wanted it. It was the only thing that could soothe me, could make it all disappear -- their looks, their touches the smell of their alcoholic sweat.

I reach down and unstrap my clear plastic heel, patent leather stiletto that only the sexy survive wearing. I drop it to the floor and take the other one off. I wiggle my toes and shift my weight and hear my toes cracking which lets me know these puppies have had enough walking, dancing, anything, for one night. I walk down the hall towards the bathroom. Turning on the light makes me squint my eyes. I turn the light back off and click on the light for the hallway. I step in and leave the door open, so that the hallway light slightly illuminates the bathroom.

I bend over, click the drain stopper and turn the water on. I begin to undress. Reaching under my skirt, I grab at the waistband of my pantyhose and feel myself tense a little. The steam from the tub floats up and I relax as I inhale it. I slide off my pantyhose and lace underwear in one swift motion. I reach behind me and unzip my favorite, oh-so-tight black leather dress. I let it drop to the floor and lightly kick it aside as I unhook my lace bra. I swing the top half of my body one way and then the other, cracking my back, let out a sigh, and step into the tub, turn the water off and slowly lower myself in.

I rest my head and tears begin to well up in my eyes. I don’t really know why, but tonight’s work hit me really hard. Maybe it was the way that one guy kept ordering me to “keep moving, don’t stop” like I didn’t hear him the first time. Or maybe it was the way I could smell the beer seeping out of his pores as his sweat dropped down on me, making me have to talk myself out of childhood flashbacks of my foster father desecrating my seven-year-old body with his disgusting, thick semen after his demonic climax. I don’t like thinking about that, but lately, it’s been on my mind more than I care to admit.

I splash the hot water on my face and see traces of black glitter in the tub water. I rub the soap and washcloth together and dunk them under the surface. I try to blink the thoughts out of my mind. I start rubbing the soapy washcloth hard against my face to get off all the mascara and glitter. I wipe my lips and feel them begin to tremble. I use the washcloth to splash water on my face, but it doesn’t stop the inevitable. My body begins to shake and I notice the little ripples in the water get bigger and move faster. A quick quivering moan escapes my lips. I try to swallow real hard to try to control the tensed knot in my throat. It does no good because it needs to come out. It has to come out. It demands to come out.

I drop the washcloth, put my hands up to my face, covering it and open my mouth to let out the sound of a tormented soul whose pain can’t be restrained. Instead, all I can do is inhale a long, quiet breath. I want to let out a scream, a yell -- anything to relieve the pain I feel inside, but all that comes out is a muffled sob and a few tears. Suddenly it happens. I loose control. I start kicking my legs, swinging my arms against the water and the water hits the wall and overflows from the tub onto the floor. I yell out, “I fucking hate you! I fucking hate you! Don’t touch me. No! It doesn’t feel good! No! I don’t like it. Get off of me! NO! NO! NO!”

I can taste the soapy tears. My eyes and nose begin to burn and I quietly say to myself, calm down, calm down, it’s okay, it’s okay. I splash water on my face again and let the water out of the tub, stand up and turn the shower on. I begin to soap my body, scrubbing my body as fast and as hard as I can. I just want to get out of here already. I turn the water off, slide the curtain, and step out onto the dress that is still on the floor. I slip a little, hold the sink to regain my footing and grab the towel off the rack, wrap it around my body and almost run back down the hallway to the kitchen to the beer I left on the counter. I chug the rest.

Slowly, my body relaxes and the fire in the pit of my stomach is doused and I’m back. I put on my soft cotton pajama pants, pull my comforter back, slide my body onto the bed and lay down, hoping I can get some rest.

This Time
by Sheila Estrada

I touch the softness of the red and black velvet curtain and peer through the slight opening and watch the snow fill the parking lot outside the cheap hotel room window. For all the clanking and banging coming from the radiator, you would think it’d be hot as Hawaii in this room, but it’s not. All it’s doing is working my last nerve.

I see the reflection of my glossy eyes in the glass and gently close the curtain. With a shaky hand, leaning on the window frame, I bow my head and let the heavy tears that have filled my eyes spill down my cheeks. I feel the hot rush of embarrassment and shame run up from my stomach to my chest like a flame hit by lighter fluid. I feel weak, like I can no longer stand, so I pull out the squeaky wood and cloth chair and balance myself on the little round cherry wood table and drop into the chair like the lifeless person I feel like and begin to cry. Not one of those loud hysterical cries. No, this cry has traveled from so deep within, through layers of shields and protective walls, that by the time it reaches the surface, all that comes out is a quiet squeaky moan left by a love’s end.

Holding my head in my hands, I rock back and forth as memories of first moments flash through my mind like little mini movies. I can still remember the first look my lover gave me that sent the feeling of fluttering butterflies through me and tickled my womanhood. The first gentle, touching caress which felt so foreign because I never felt that safe or wanted before the first spat over the toilet seat that ended quickly and quietly complete with a kiss and an apology.

My lips quiver as I sniffle and inhale long and deep, trying to regain some sense of control. I grip both hands on the armrests alongside me and push myself out of the chair and walk towards the mirror and sink. As I walk by the t.v. I click it on and hear some reporter talking about a murder-suicide in some small town I never heard of. I let out a sigh of sadness because of what happened and relief that it wasn’t me. “Wonder what set him off,” I say quietly to myself, turning the knob for the hot water and placing a round rubber stopper in the sink. I close my eyes and let the heat vapors cloud around my face and breath in.

My mind drifts back to the lesson I was still trying to learn from the “discipline”, as my lover calls it, and to thoughts of him holding me still by the back of my head, my curls were wrapped around his fingers so tight that I thought he’d pull them out by the roots. His fist smashed so hard into my jaw that I spat out little pieces of broken teeth that stabbed my tongue with a sharpness that made me wonder if I had taken my razor out of my mouth when I came in from hustling. I remember trying to pull forward and shake my head from side to side to free myself from the hold he had on me. I felt paralyzed from the look of hate in his eyes. Sweat outlining his face as he placed it nose to nose with mine, yelling his favorite, “You dirty bitch!” line at me.

My knees buckled under me. I brought my palms together in a prayer position, intertwined my fingers, laid my thumb flat against my index finger and with all my strength, I swung my hands upwards into his face, hoping it would explode. Ripping his hands out of my hair, he swung me loose sending me with my arms raised crashing into the dresser with a loud crack. Stumbling backwards into the wall with his hands over his face, he yelled, “You maggot bitch!” The echo of his voice startled me and reminded me that I was alive and I still needed to get away. I pressed at my throbbing side, hoping my ribs weren’t broken, leaned forward and sprinted towards the door. I grabbed the doorknob yanked at it, then almost felt defeated when I realized that I was trapped by the chain. I slammed the door shut, and with lightning speed, I slid the chain out, praying it wouldn’t get stuck at the end, and swung the door open so hard I sent it slamming accidentally, but with some satisfaction on his fingers before he could reach me to snatch me back into the room.

Suddenly, I feel my feet are wet and open my eyes and realize the water is overflowing from the sink. I turn the knob and shut it off, wave the vapors away from my face and wipe the fog off the mirror. I can hardly recognize myself through the puffiness. I take a deep breath to get up enough courage to wash off the cover-up I put on my face to hide what I’ve become. This isn’t the first time I’ve been here alone crying in some cheap hotel room wondering how to stay away after a date with some fat guy named “John” of course, who was kind enough to leave me the room after he was done doing his business.

I can still recall how relieved I was when I caught the date after putting on the cover-up, lipstick and eyeliner I stole from Walgreen’s, to fix my face, to look as normal as possible. I waved him down, winking and blowing a kiss, and as his car passed by I looked over my shoulder, trembling, praying, I could get in the car safely, without my so-called man getting to me first.

Thank God I did get away. Now I’m here here I am with my shaking hand washing my face, staring at my new bruises, begging myself not to go back there, this time.

The Warning
by Sheila Estrada

Watch out miss too
cute for you, before
you find yourself on
that sexy tight ass
of yours, from the harsh
blow called reality that
may knock you down
off that oh so high
pedestal and send you
crashing into the true
blue you, you refuse to
be. Better be careful
Miss absolute heartbreaker
all glammed up in that make-up
hoping to hide the face
you hate to look at, each
line reminding you of where
you’ve been and how fast
you’re not getting where you
wanted to go. All the cover-up
in the world won’t hide the
emptiness behind those bruised
eyes that still hold on to
the dreams that will
never come true.


The Traveler
by Hailey Chuckran

I wish I could say
I was a beautiful stone
that glimmered in the sunlight
from the polishing
of a million waves,
from the strongest storms
pushed through the quickest currents.
But I’m merely a jaded rock
with miles to go
before my edges are smoothed
and my battle scars fade.
If shame was a drop of water
I’d be a river
flowing into an ocean of guilt.
If regret was a tree
I’d be standing
in the middle of a forest.
If events of the past
were bricks sealed into my walls
I’d rip out every one
and watch as my home crumbled.
But all I can do
is try to do better.
And maybe one day
I’ll believe you
when you say you’re proud.
But for now
I’ll try to see
what you see.

in progress
Hailey Chuckran

I walked slowly towards the door, staring down at my flip flops moving through the sunstroked grass. The sun was beating down on me like a hammer and I broke into a sweat. I finally looked up at the old, thick black door I had seen so many times. It reminded me of when my mother left it open to watch me from the kitchen. One day, I was out of her sight a minute too long, and I decided to give myself bangs with a pair of arts and crafts zig zag scissors.

Now the paint was chipped and weathered. The thick door gave me a little trouble and I needed to jolt it open. Inside, I breathed a big gulp of unfamiliar air. It used to smell like clean clothes and baked ziti. Now it smelled of dust and stripped wood. I looked in the front room and saw sharp cornered chairs and with hardly a cushion at all. Why would someone ever buy those? I thought.

I felt as if I was alone. And because I knew I wasn’t the only one there, the silence was eerie. I stood there stiff, palms drenched and perfectly still. I listened for anything. Finally, I heard muffled voices that grew louder and louder and I could tell that both voices were angry. Then a door upstairs opened, as if one voice was trying to escape.

“I don’t give a shit. I come down here to see you. Not hang out with your girlfriend or her kids!”
“You little shit! Why can’t you just make things easy on me? Stop giving me such a hard time.”
“Bring me home. Fuck you and your cunt of a girlfriend. I don’t owe you shit!”

I thought, yes! That’s it! Tell him off! I burst over to the edge of the stairs, kicking off my flip flops, and strained to hear what would happen next. A set of footsteps raced across the upstairs floor, and it sounded as though someone chased right behind, though I couldn’t be sure. Then suddenly, a loud BANG!

I raced upstairs, then reached the hallway and looked through the doorway into the bathroom. I stopped and stared at the scene before me. The “little shit” was a fighter, but he was no match for his father. The boy was on the ground, his sneakers squeaking back and forth on the tile. The father crouched over him, one arm holding the boy’s head, the other arm shoved against the boy’s face. Was he trying to kill him? The boy gulped and struggled to breath. The father pushed his hand into the boy’s face throwing all his weight behind it. Then I realized something was in his hand, something he was shoving into the boy’s mouth. When the father shifted his weight, I finally saw what it was. He was jamming a bar of soap down the boy’s throat.

The boy’s eyes were wide and glanced at me in horror, but quickly looked away with shame, shame, maybe because he felt he couldn’t protect me, or maybe because he had been, yet again, overpowered.
“What are you doing? GET OFF OF HIM!”

But the father continued to push the soap into the boy’s mouth.
The Little Shit was an athlete who particularly loved baseball, had a passion for it. Well, that day so did I. A few years back my mother had given us both beautiful, high quality wooden bats with our names engraved on them. I saw his, lying on the hallway floor. I picked it up, ran into the bathroom and swung, missing the father’s head by a few inches. Maybe I was trying to hit him, or maybe I was trying to scare him. Who knows? The bat crashed into the wall with a big cloud of white dust.

“I’m not asking you!” I shouted, and thought, next time I won’t miss.


by Tuwana Bowles

I left my limp hand
in your back pocket.
It must feel good
to your backside
because you haven’t
notice it.
You ride
the bus and sit
in the front row.
Now my hand
is numb,
no feeling at all.
You’re smiling as you walk
home. You feel good.
In your room, you
put your wallet on
the tray sitting
neatly on your dresser.
You remove your
pants to fold them
and you notice my hand;
pull it out to examine
my light brown skin
the French manicure
and you wince.
It is my left one.
You run yours
over your shirt pocket
take out the box
bend down on one knee
and ask the same question
pushing the ring
on my stiff finger.


Timely Manner
by Melanie Reddy

it stops
it slows down.
it even stalls.
it stares me in
the face
and moves
as it
always willl
to the next
that thinks
it’ll stand still

by Melanie Reddy

Your ugly fills me with
the piece of cotton at the point
of thy precious needle
sucked dry by a plunger out of
a hollow, empty cooker
that is met briefly by
the flash of red which really is
go for green.
My finger presses the plastic
plunger that is forced through skin
like armor worn by medieval soldiers.
But it still
pushes and slowly the ugly disappears
like the beach in high tide
covering only what it needs
but undressing the inside
like a stripper.


by Theisha Allen

Drilled to my back
with black ink
swollen for days
but it was worth it
covering something that wasn’t amazing
now it’s a part of me