A Look Back at 'Decompression' - by Nastia Lenkova

Note from the Editor: I recently read an article showing that only 1/3 or so of the bylines appearing in most of the big name literary and critical reviews in America and the UK have been by women. Now, the reasons behind such numbers could fill a book, but around the same time I heard that the literary ‘zine Decompression, which explores female themes through poetry, was closing its doors for good. With those two things in mind, I decided we needed a little attention drawn to some of the female poets of our literary backroads to let the world know that the camp fire ‘round here is open to all, so long as you have a good story to tell. I’d like to thank Nastia Lenkova, co-editor of Decompression, for discussing her ‘zine and five of her favorite pieces they published over the years. I encourage you to look into the work of the writers below, not simply because they are women, but because they are fine poets deserving of recognition.


Nastia Lenkova: As a former editor of a female centered poetry zine, I was able to see plenty of wonderful poetry from women and men alike. It was hard to maintain something of a fringe corner of the poetry world, and so our seventh issue was our last. The literary world can be a funny place. I feel that more females are able to have their voices heard than ever before, unfortunately it is fluff like "50 Shades of Grey" that gets the most notoriety. When thinking of poetry, many people who aren't as well versed in modern poetry might only come up with Emily Dickinson and maybe Sylvia Plath. It is a true disservice to the many wonderful female poets of the past and present. Poetry tends to get a bad rap in most literary circles, as it's often deemed elitist, or as I've seen in various articles "poetry is written by poets for poets". Of course, I wholeheartedly disagree with that idea, and I've listed five poems from talented women who have graced the pages of Decompression below, poems I have a strong connection to for different reasons explained afterward.

Like Weeds In a Window Box by Stephanie Anderson

The softened bones of my hips lay slant against the bed,
tired, as I watch the day lean its shadow, and peel the paint
from my window's pane.

There lies a fire-box beneath my heart. An alarm
that waits to split me open, but I am only his lover.
From before.

I want to air out these words, hang them like my crumpled sheets
from a clothesline to watch them come clean. But, March is in snow.
Oh, to only speak.

Outside the grass does not green. Instead it flares harsh
ugly weeds: prickly, dying weeds in my window. And now
their marriage-box, like a casket, has closed me in.

I must look how dying looks. I must feel how dying feels.

Ritual Regarding Nakedness by Carol Lynn Grellas

After saying goodnight to him,
we slip into the pale creaminess of our bed-
lying beside him, skin undressed
I wait for his hand to cup my breast.

I’m not thinking of being twenty again,
or the first time I made love to a man
and experienced the sorrow that came
before cigarettes and consolation.

I’m not thinking of a flawless face
or how I’ll look when I wake in the morning
with the wren perched on the sill,
the two of us still braided together.

I’m not thinking of our candlelit hour
requiring perfection anymore,
or consideration for the critical eye
that held me hostage through youthful years.

I'm thinking, how do I get through
the days without the feeling of skin
placed in the home of his palm?
So I wait for the usual darkness

to possess us. The only place we
wear each other’s flesh.

Self Portrait in Letters and Scars by Rachel Bunting

starburst, right upper lip
It was like flying, finally, for a fraction of a second.
Then the world came rushing up to catch me.
I kissed the hot asphalt of our suburban road.
My father, fresh off a week’s worth of swing shifts
at the barracks, carried me the half-block home.

minus sign, left index finger
Steak knife. Soapy water.
My practical mother taught me not
to reach my hands into the sink blind.
I forgot.

zipper, left jawline
Faded. My skin fused
like welding, like magic.
Which story do you want
to hear? He was only trying
to make me. Something.

strawberry static, left shin
She was two years old, a stumbling train
toward the street. One clumsy leap up
the stairs and the blood ran in streams
into my shoes but her fine head was safe
safe safe on the sidewalk.

flower petals, lower right back
The rocks bit my skin, their starry mouths hungry
in the summer night. I did not feel them at all,
so afraid of the stranger’s body pushing against mine.
Later the pain kept me up nights. All kinds of it.
My body is always in bloom.

Molasses by April Michelle Bratten

Your fingers graze,
then pause,
settling on
the nakedness of my hip.

Your breath shadows
and dampens
the place where shoulder
and neck softly connect.

But my Love,
I only wish to set bare your mind--
to read it as a map,
to memorize your cell paths.

From there I could sail your dark blood,

my cup.

Like a victim by Arielle Lancaster-LaBrea

You unfurl your s's like a snake
stalking a field mouse then snap
back and watch the spill of red
with a half grin and a sense of
accomplishment, watch your voice
coil around me, violating the last
shred of dignity I had, cover my
eyes with calla lilies and tell
me you are preserving me for something
deeper, something more profound,
hold me tight, so tight, under the
clear thickness and let this last gasp
be the one that I remember on the way
out, on the way to sanctity, on the
way to my retribution, the way it
fills the whole of me. Take some
Polaroids for posterity, but unbind
my limbs for the camera. How I loved
my skin before the rope burns, how
I adored my softness before you let
the earth swallow me.

It is always interesting to me to find the connections between poems written by different people, in different settings. There is a universality to much of the sentiment in these, particularly the poems from Bratten, Anderson, and Grellas. LaBrea's poem explores a darker, twisted side to a relationship that ultimately describes the narrator's end at her lover's hand. It is unique and well written. I particularly enjoyed the description of events that led to the scars left on the narrator in Bunting's poem. There is a heavy burden in that poem, particularly in the last stanza. Bratten's poem has a restrained, sensual feeling that really appeals to me. Anderson and Grellas' poems share an ache without going over the top. It's the restraint that makes them as powerful as they are. The combination of tenderness and brutality in LaBrea's poem is so descriptive. There is so much more that could be said about these poems, but hopefully their words will be enough to entice readers to investigate more of their work.

- Nastia Lenkova, co-editor of Decompression


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