Cotton Xenomorph is a new literary journal produced with the mission to showcase new, and ecstatic art while reducing language of oppression in our community. We are dedicated to uplifting new and established voices while engaging in thoughtful conversation around social justice.

The Afterlife Is a Room Full of Windows You Are Trying to Avoid


by Joanna C. Valente (art by David Rodríguez)


In a bodega called Good Foods
on 5th & 41st, a butterfly fluttered around florescent
light as if it didn’t know

florescent lights are ugly

as if it didn’t know it wasn’t outside near
a real light

like the sun, as if it didn’t
know the difference between forest

and kleenex, between grass and cheap
toilet paper. I stopped for a second

and I'm full of bees who died
at sea. A woman outside is yelling

on the phone: Go back

to your mother's house, let me try you
on for size--

my life isn't a performance.

The woman on the other
end hangs up.


You stopped talking to your mother
for three months and you know

this is your fault. This is her fault. This is
everyone's fault and blame is pointless

but you want to have reasons and facts
because they are easier to dress in

every morning that you haven't masturbated
because you never masturbate

you don't really know how. But you know
what you like and what you want

and you've taught yourself how to be
sex and what sex is and what you want

to be for others. What you want to have
done to you

and you never thought as a student
you would have to learn

about what sex means for you, what sex
can do for a body, how sex can make you

an identity. Sex was something that just existed
to you until it was everything

to your body, until it was taken away from you
and your body, until you had to relearn

what sex was and how your body craved it
and how you could make your body crave it

and how you can't make your body crave it
and how you shouldn't make yourself
do anything you don't want to do.

Unlearning is hard to do

especially when you are the teacher
and there are hundreds of faces that look up
from their desks at you everyday

and they trust you but do you even trust

This is what you imagine the afterlife
looks like.

You taught your students to dive under desks
make them believe you'd save them
from a gunman.

You'd make them believe
they were safe, make them believe

women can be safe, make them believe
someone is listening to them

in the way their bodies need to be listened
to. Make them believe in the word

even though okay is just a lie
adults feed to kids because we lie
to ourselves about ever

being okay.

Your students ask if they should be
near a window or under the window
and the entire room is full of windows.

Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (The Operating System, 2017), Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016) and the editor of A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). Joanna received a MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College, and is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, a managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine and CCM, as well as an instructor at Brooklyn Poets. Some of their writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Brooklyn Magazine, Prelude, Apogee, Spork, The Feminist Wire, BUST, and elsewhere. 

(Artist) David Rodriguez is from Spain and considers himself a lover of photography. He loves surreal photography and fashion photography. His main influences are Man Ray, Erwin Blumenfeld and above all Guy Bourdin. His last series is tittle "Antique". It is a conceptual project about the distortion of beauty that we may see in ourselves when influenced by fashions and what surrounds us.

Artist's Statement, "Lady 2", photograph:

I like to photograph people, I feel very comfortable doing portraits, but I always try to go a little further. That is the reason why I try to look for risky compositions, with a touch of surrealism. Works like those of Man Ray, Erwin Blumenfeld or Guy Bourdin inspire me immensely.

Each person inspires me a different sensation, so before I do the shooting, I imagine how I would like to portray him or her. Then, I create a concept and imagine a story. I do not like to get attached to reality. Instead, I like to transform it, challenging the model with unusual situations. I play with the model, making each session a culture encounter, but also an enriching and surprising experience for both of us. The use of the photography techniques I use, whether high speed, long exposure or others, is determined by the conceptual preconception I had in mind.

I am especially interested in Pop Art. This is why all my works are in square format, as if they were the cover of a vinyl record.  In the future, I would like to explore the world of fashion photography.

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