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.

Brand Me

By Marisa Crane (Art by Bill Wolak)

You were five years my junior. You liked that I was a poet. I liked that you were a painter. I’d never dated another artist before. I was curious to see how quickly we would spiral into destruction.

You took me on a date to graffiti my poems under the Ben Franklin bridge. Afterwards we drank jalapeño margaritas and floated through time and space. It was a new kind of wonder.

On our second date, you pulled out your iPhone and showed me your Instagram account, the unfathomable amount of followers you had.

Followers.

The word alone sounded like something I should report to the police. Maybe fingerprint them in their sleep. You said that I could be loved like I’d never been loved before. I thought you meant by you. I wanted that very much. I wanted a reason to stay alive.

Soon thereafter you moved into my apartment. There was a Checker’s with bullet-proof glass next door. You used to drunkenly send me over there to get us fully-loaded fries and the Baconzilla burger. I would have done anything you’d asked.

You taught me how to take selfies. Hold the phone up high. Like this. So you won’t appear to have a double chin. No, not like that. You’re doing it wrong. Don't worry, you'll get it with practice. You taught me how to hashtag the perfect amount—enough to gain followers but not so much that I came across as cheesy or disingenuous. You shouted me out. Follow my beautiful girlfriend. She's so talented. I'm so lucky. You never said those words aloud. I didn't notice that at the time.

My followers soared. My followers danced. My followers built mountains then moved them with a single breath. My followers were attached to strings I'd been handed.

You taught me how to unzip my human skin and step out of it like a worn pair of Gap overalls. You taught me how to not just have a brand, but to be a brand. How to appeal to my followers. Pretend I was human. You put our love on display like a cheap piece of pop art. Andy Warhol with less Catholic guilt. You branded our relationship. Took staged photos of us holding hands and creating art. Make sure you get my charcoal sketch in the background. Include your typewriter. You took a hot metal iron and pressed it against my lips. It hurt the way dreams hurt. In reverse. Upside-down. In other worlds. It hurt where dreams hurt. In the sentience of my spine.

You wanted so many things for us that didn’t involve us at all.

You sipped your Pinot Noir and talked about how engagement matters while I took photos of my Maker’s Mark and moleskin notebook and hashtagged #poets4life. You told your followers your most intimate secrets in the captions of your Instagram photos. You fed them pieces of your heart. First, just a cardiomyocyte here, a cardiomyocyte there. Tiny confessions carried on the backs of ants. Then it was chunks of your ventricles. You could barely breathe, but that didn’t matter. Kissing turned into gasping. Still, you smoked your vape for the well-timed photos of cotton-candy smoke clouds. Finally, you removed your aorta, as easily as if it were a garden hose you unraveled in the yard to water the tomato plants.

Even though you were sitting on the baby blue Lay-Z-Boy couch next to me, I found myself going on Instagram to read about you. That was where your version of the truth lived.

I tried to swallow your heart, but it wouldn’t take. I vomited for a year straight. You held my hair back with your free hand, your eyes glued to your phone. My poetry suffered. My followers asked where I was, sent helicopters to search for me. One crashed into our apartment, setting the seventh floor on fire. I spit up your blood and the flames grew, snickered like school girls spreading gossip. You took a perfectly angled selfie with the flames before running out the door and down the stairs. You didn’t call my name, didn’t even look back. I smiled, then passed out on the bathroom floor.

It was the most honest thing I’d seen you do.


Marisa Crane is a lesbian fiction writer and poet. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys, Pidgeonholes, Pigeon Pages, X-R-A-Y Magazine, Okay Donkey, Riggwelter Press, and elsewhere. You can read more of her work at www.marisacrane.org. She currently lives in San Diego with her partner and their handsome pit bull.

(Artist) Bill Wolak has just published his fifteenth book of poetry entitled The Nakedness Defense with Ekstasis Editions. His collages have appeared recently in Naked in New Hope 2017, The 2017 Seattle Erotic Art Festival,  Poetic Illusion, The Riverside Gallery, Hackensack, NJ, the 2018 Dirty Show in Detroit, and 2018 The Rochester Erotic Arts Festival.


Artist's Statement, "As the Wind Releases Your Hair", collage

I make collages out of all kinds of materials.  Most are made out of paper engravings. Many collages are digitally generated or enhanced.  To begin a piece, I select some sources—either color or black and white. If I’m using  magazines or prints or old books, I cut out some images or parts of images that interest me. Then I start working on a background or some other sort of chance construction. Much is left to fleeting insights. These are tiny miracles of inspiration. Depending on whether I’m using scissors and glue or digital images, each collage could take several hours.

I Want to Be the Person that Names Hurricanes

Manifesto: Chloe N. Clark