“Bouquet for Healthy Platonic Dependency” & “Prayer for Your Small Ground” by Mark Cugini

Illustration of two hands holding each other in front of spread legs and feet, which turn into grass and a blooming yellow flower in front of a star-filled night sky.

Bouquet for Healthy Platonic Dependency

All of my friends are whales. When I’m sobbing, they click
along in harmony. When I’m trembling, they line the hallways
of my terror with stingbush shrubs. My friends hunt for the
shallowest parts of my needs in the bloodless crevices of my
lungs & devour my insecurities, picking my traumas from
their teeth with the bones of all the abusive men we’ve
murdered together. Humans have evolved beyond the protein of
crickets but we still crave the delicate breeze of platonic
touch, so kiss me in your shiny pink Doc Martens (size 14).
I dream of a boisterous liberation & awake to an empathy so
strong that I must immediately run to a dilapidated theatre
in Eureka Spring & triumphantly bellow the names of the
people I love with a quartz-tinted ferocity: we did not come
here in order and we will not disappear. My friends are the
taste of cherries on a muggy June morning. My friends are a
skyline that only I can see. When a whale is about to be
killed by a predator, the other whales in her pod feel a
gravitational pull so deep in their communal core that they
swim to the ocean’s floor & buzz like lonely cicadas. The
dying leviathan feels the vibrations in her bones & is
lulled into a lush hibernation as chunks of flesh are torn
from her belly. When her bloated carcass washes towards the
shore, the pulsing calls cause its bones to calcify with the
sand and it’s rumored that this is how the first coral reef
was created. But all of that is just an ancient queer
proverb: not one of these things is true. Except that all of
my friends are whales.

Prayer for Your Small Ground

On my small ground, as if in another country, I was not a problem.
       - Molly Brodak
Call mourning what it's meant to be called: a muddy black
crevice in a meadow; a lonely gymnasium in a merciless
summer. The overwhelming melancholy that follows a
historically underwhelming slam dunk contest. All of the
people I love have been handed lives that they weren't meant
to survive. Some of them will look directly at the eye of
the storm & sail through it. Others will be eaten by bears.
None will outlive the criminal enterprise we so often call
"existing." This is why valor is measured not by the size of
a crop's harvest but by the gardener's effort to sow the
soil of their own small ground. I text N and ask him to hug
C because I cannot truly know if I will ever be able to put
my hands between her & her grief ever again. But hold on
you're still here? When my friends pass, each of them comes
back as a single daffodil blooming from the cheap dumpster
that is my heart, and I'm about ready to firebomb the
sanitation department. N sends me a picture of an egg
plucked fresh from Molly's chicken coop and this, I think,
is what heaven was always supposed to look like. The baker
sows her soil and it has never been anything but a blessing.
Hold on—you're still here. And I will be too.

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Mark Cugini is a bratty switch from Staten Island, NY. They are the founder of Big Lucks, a co-organizer of Whale Prom, & a member of Best Buds! Collective. Their chapbook I’M SORRY IF MY TRAUMATIZED LIFE IS AN INCONVENIENCE TO YOUR PERFECT EXISTENCE will be released this spring.

Corinne Dodenhoff is a Philly-based artist, illustrator, graphic designer, Squarespace web designer, educator, musician, and plant parent. She’s passionate about helping small businesses, bands, brands and co-ops bring their mission and vision to life. She’s also passionate about beautiful aesthetics, design trends, social justice, and making design accessible to all. You can find her work online at www.designswithhe.art and also on Instagram at @corinnedodenhoffcreative.