Cover art by Lilly Manycolors
Raptures of the Deep
by Claudine Griggs
by Thomas Kearnes
by Christa Feazell
by Sarah M. Goulet
“5:25” & “El Valle”
by Roman G. Benavidez
“escape” & “hair”
by Robin Gow
by Caitlin Moran
by Tyler Orion
by Lilly Manycolors
It’s good to be back. This is Mount Island’s fourth issue, but truthfully, in spirit, this is another debut—the inaugural issue of a new beast. Four years ago, when we released Mount Island No. 3: Folklore & Fairytales, we were a merry band of young writers trying out this publishing thing for ourselves. Passionate, but unfocused. Had we continued publishing back in 2015 we might have found some unifying purpose beyond love of lit, but I was too impatient to wait and see. I was a sucker for purpose then, a total Pépé Le Pew. I probably still am, but these days I just might be chasing an actual skunk.
In the years since Mount Island No. 3, I’ve kept at this publishing thing in one way or another, as often as not despite myself, because it just won’t stop mattering to me. Art and literature matter to the body and soul. Sharing art and literature with the world matters, and it matters that what we share with each other be good; that it raise up the spirit, and that spirits who need raising be bathed in it, made ready for the day by it. The spirit needs a cup to share, a fire to gather around, other spirits to gather closer. That is the publisher’s purpose: to make sure the bath is full when you need it. To keep the fire stoked and introduce people to friends, to offer the cups.
In my life, few forces other than publishing have been able to bring people together so earnestly, with such dignity and care. But now more than ever, there’s no ignoring the publishing world’s power to separate and violate. I’ve been lucky to gripe about this over the years with no shortage other creative smarty pants, and even luckier to work with the folks who came together to bring Mount Island back. The new Mount Island is our a shot at lighting a fire where there’s been none; at tending a gathering place for those who share our experiences, our spirits: We’re country. Queer and trans, black and brown, and picnicking on mountaintops, turning the soil and splitting the logs, driving winding roads in trances. It matters that we be together. That we’ve shared the same solitary path through the woods, the same pang of loneliness cut short by the gasp of beauty—crystal stream, bluebird, the green and gold canopy, life. That we can gather together as who we are, unbothered, and that we welcome others to raise their spirits in affinity—that matters. I may be a love-drunk skunk, but I know a good bath when I need one.
In Mount Island No. 4, two deep-sea scientists and a navy lieutenant face death with camp and grace in Claudine Griggs’ “Raptures of the Deep,” while in Thomas Kearnes’ “And Now the News,” a squad of East Texas gays crashes into the dreaded thirty-something wall. Christa Feazell’s “SNAFU”and Sarah M. Goulet’s “Heliocentric” weaves lines between American gun culture and two queer women’s coming of age. Damien Benavidez’s “5:25” and “El Valle” deliver brief epics on growing up bi in the Rio Grande Valley, and Caitlin Moran’s “No Trespassing” maps out a butch and a trans boy’s growing room. Robin Gow’s “escape” and “hair” and Tyler Orion’s “Selections from Inferior Normal” commune with bodies and souls in transition and the ghosts they leave behind. And Lilly Manycolors’ 7WOMXN series answers in otherworldly tapestry our burning question: “How do we live in the in-between spaces, and live well?”
7WMXN by Lilly Manycolors
Lilly E. Manycolors is a diverse heritage Indigenous mixed media artist known for her emotionally-excavating artworks and performances. Deeply rooted in her Choctaw and Anishinaabe traditions, she draws from her personal journeys to create pieces that offer safer spaces for decolonial dialogue, intimate connections, and new ways of being. Her art focuses on the human condition, bringing into conversation experiences of otherness, transformation, trauma and healing, gender, and possibilities of being one’s complex self. Through her pieces she invites her audience to traverse vast emotional terrains with her and explore the depths of personhood together. How do we feel and accept the fullness of pain and suffering, and still believe we will survive them? What relationships are we cultivating between our own body and the bodies of others? How do we live in the in-between spaces, and live well? These questions and more she brings alive through her various art forms, mostly self-taught, including visual art, dance, poetry, and performance art.
By Thomas Kearnes
“Anything can kill you if it’s aimed at your head.”
Graham Elwood desperately desired company, but not desperately enough to seek it out. If no calls came, such as on that Saturday night, he preferred to stay home. An outfit lay on his bed in case someone invited him to the club or a restaurant. He even squirreled away a condom or two in the khaki pants next to the button-down shirt. But these items would return to the closet once ten o’clock came, the condoms returned to the bedside drawer. When alone, he made popcorn and settled in his recliner to watch the local news. Graham occasionally slept with a man whose boyfriend managed the local CBS affiliate; he felt a perverse connection to each newscast. He assured himself he wasn’t a recluse. Having turned thirty last year, he no longer believed every weekend should be filled with carnal adventure.
A pot of spaghetti boiled on the stove while he sipped a beer in the living room and watched that terrible show where buff models and wannabe actors performed grotesque or dangerous stunts to win a meager cash prize. Graham marveled at how captivating he found the program. Right now, a woman in full body armor—she looked like a voodoo doll minus the pins—screamed, crawling along a stone wall while an attack dog chomped at her. As the poor girl wedged herself through a slender doorway, his cell phone rang.
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By Christa Feazell
I am three years old.
Every morning I wake up and eat my breakfast while watching Rocko’s Modern Life or Hey Arnold! I wear pajamas with cartoon characters on them. I attend a pre-school where I am taught things like the alphabet and the five senses. I play on a jungle gym with my friends. We do arts and crafts.
My grandmother has the news on. I see a line of kids running out of school with their hands behind their heads. Men dressed in black from head to toe run beside them. They play audio of a 911 call. There are distant bangs and a woman yelling, “Get under the table—kids, get under the tables!”
I see the shadow of the gun.
By Tyler Orion
I can’t stop wanting to be fire. I am stalking
myself through my ashen mind. I am waiting for
stillness. I’ve picked a thread loose and am pulling
apart the weave of my cocoon. Of course we are
birthed from salty water. Before creation there
was ocean. The border of ocean and body is a
scream that sounds like a crab ticking through sand.