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.

for the spring semester & for hannah rego

By Jess Rizkallah

after & with lines from frank o’hara

1.

behind new york there’s a face
its everyone’s and they
are so cute today, earnest
looking for elevators

me and hannah ate bibimbap
and discussed the consistency
of fishcake. also

the republic. they’re in love
with a punk who is in love
with the revolution.

we make windmill arms
in front of the candy shop
like we are children again
we link arms
like we are in love. we’re not

but we both have big eyes that confuse
people we look at, some of whom don’t want us
to be in love with them

i want to make us tshirts that say
‘i’m not in love with you that’s just how big
my eyes are’

sometimes i look at someone the same way
i look at an empty bus seat and other times
the way i look at the ocean. you can’t tell the difference

i want to make tshirts that say ‘i’m either in love
with you or that’s just how big my eyes are”

so big an entire me could pass
through the center on her way
to something despicable to want
in the middle of
the end

hannah says
their heart feels seismographic
or is that the earth

2.

a lot is buried
under the west village like bones
and beaks and bottles under concrete
on top of which
we sidestep an animal roughly
every three feet

sometimes i can’t stand new york
b/c of how perfect the dog culture is

it’s crazy that in 20 years every dog
on this earth that is alive right now
won’t exist anymore

what a statistic. no what a turn over. this makes me feel better
about the five students who dropped my class
in the last two weeks. you see

in dog years two weeks is enough
for me to leave anything behind

there is too much to discover
before the end of treats

dogs don’t know what war is
the mushroom cloud is a second sun
that turns the people into food

here we are and what the hell are we going to do

3.

it’s cold but it’s not. it’s 55 degrees in january
a sweaty cheesecake day

the robin in the grass
is puffy and red like the word ‘splat’

hannah asks ‘is that bird ok’
and then ‘is that bird alive’
and then it flies away

in 2-5 years every common bird
in new york city won’t exist anymore
in their place, a new generation

i read somewhere that ancient migration
patterns are ingrained into the cellular
memory of every bird

if you never migrate, what are you leaving
for your offspring to follow when the sky
marries the fog to escape itself

cigarette butts and phlegm

4.

yes it is strange that everyone fucks and every
one mentions it and it’s boring too
as i try to sleep my wanders
how many teeth have chewed a little piece
of the lover’s flesh
i haven’t seen him in 4 dog weeks
how many teeth are there in the world
one whole year and another half
but if i woke up next to him
after making a child
i would keep it

immediately i sit up and begin
searching the internet for a therapist

5.

I’m looking for a million-dollar heart
in a carton of frozen strawberries

so i’m not getting married
unless it is to my work

don’t tell my grandparents
they will find out at the reception
when i release the birds into the empty rafters
of myself

and dust will become me
as i become the fog
getting out of my own way

i’m scared of having children
the spinal tap
at the parasite’s door

oh god how I’d love to dream
let alone sleep, the soft air
with a certain amount of rapture what do
you do with a kid

but if it would have my eyeballs
i’d do it

6

yes hannah is still here we are still in new york
it is still the end of the world and the end of the day
as we digest as we talk about stained glass hours
before i read the glass essay by anne carson and i become
casually undone into the night
my skin curling into ropes around the incisor
in the center of my chest
I have often tried to say goodbye
to strange fantoms

7.

i write on the wall ‘don’t touch me’
because when I tremble it makes a noise
a bird trapped in an elevator
like the word ‘thunk’

which in another dimension is the past tense
for ‘think.’
that dimension is my throat
when i am nervous
and want to take it all back
it seems that breath
could easily fill a balloon and drift away
like saturn does after he returns
as a proposition of days of days, just an attack
on the feelings that stay

one day i’ll be left on read 5 dog years later
my feet up on the table looking cool as hell and i won’t even
need a cigarette


Jess Rizkallah is a Lebanese-American writer and illustrator. She is an NYU MFA graduate, a Kundiman fellow, and editor-in-chief at pizza pi press. Her full-length collection THE MAGIC MY BODY BECOMES was a finalist for The Believer Poetry Award and won the 2017 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize as awarded by the Radius of Arab-American Writers and University of Arkansas Press. Find her at jessrizkallah.com

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