Betsy Housten


How to Make a Girl Gang: A Mad Libs Poem

Betsy Housten

You will need:
1 shit-starter
1 aspiring rebel
1 quiet one
1 wild card

Place the shit-starter and the aspiring rebel in a [place you frequented as a young person]. Sautee on medium for [number of best friends you’ve had] week(s).

Once the shit-starter has begun to [cooking-related verb] and the aspiring rebel has turned [lipstick color], reduce the heat and add the quiet one. Simmer on low for [your curfew, as a number] hour(s), stirring regularly: after [wholesome activity], and/or during [forbidden activity]. This will balance the flavors of the first two by [verb ending in –ing] their juices and thickening into a solid base.

Before the mixture gets too [adjective you’d never say in public], add the wild card. Pour in [age you first felt afraid] cups of purloined booze. Combine random quantities of [first type of alcohol you drank], [type of alcohol that made you sick], and cheap [type of alcohol you swore you’d never drink again]. Add a few wine coolers and cans of [worst thing you’ve ever been called] Light, to taste. Turn the heat all the way up. Cover.

When the concoction reaches a rolling boil, remove the [negative emotional state] and stir in a heaping spoonful of [band that made you feel tough] until fully blended. Tear photographs of creepy [occupation, plural], fucked-up [family member, plural], and [profane adjective] ex-boyfriends into strips lengthwise, then crosswise. Sprinkle to garnish.

Serving suggestions:
Consume in a/an [type of vehicle] within one year, while the [positive emotional state] is firm and the dish is [synonym for hot]. Do not refrigerate. Do not reheat. Serves [number of best friends you’ve had crushes on].

space break

Cento with Multiple Euphemisms

Supposed to sound nothing like this, my body emits
a choir of things unmade, and made again. The house

as intoxicating as the mystery of DNA or snow:
the dark’s fake lessons, and its rush

of vein, of muscle, of blood, while the flesh
bares its teeth, bites down on the power cord.

I have kept the moon on all night in my own way,
which is the true source of desire; God, I love

how many methods there are
of breaking—and the indiscriminate

dangerous animal is also a part of me,
all wig and claw

& nothing less. For hunger is to give
towards her on the pillow, and how I am

calloused & all want—the whole is
burst open for the birds to take

whilst I work willingly, my slow heat entering
in the usual ways, a glass of water

in that one’s mouth, a half-eaten blood orange
& floorboards hush themselves to listen.

[Cento attributions in order of appearance: Janine Joseph, Madeleine Dale, Kay Murphy, Lauren Camp, Lana Bella, Joanna Hoffman, Emily Skaja, Kim Addonizio, Jess Smith, Stephen Dunn, Ada Limón, Danielle Pafunda, Ocean Vuong, Sharon Olds, Tanya Grae, Alexandria Hall, Carol Ann Duffy, John Gery, Carolyn Hembree, Erin Slaughter.]

space break

Meanwhile in the Murdered TV Lesbian Afterlife

Jenny Schecter’s making mixtapes with covers collaged
from back issues of Curve—she never thought she’d see the day—

for her ghost trauma counselor Tara Maclay, the one who
always listens. It’s hard to be a spirit when everyone’s

moved on, all your old girlfriends with new loves, but you’ll
never not be dead; you were born to be sacrificed, it’s a miracle

you survived as long as you did. Poussey Washington
and Rachel Posner bend over blueprints of Litchfield Prison

and the White House, memorizing side entrances, building ducts,
office numbers. Revenge is fucking delicious, even if your

phantom mouth tastes nothing anymore, needs no sustenance
once some writer’s red pen bleeds you out. Nadia from Killing Eve

feels lucky to have had a last name, which she will not admit
to Nadia from Lost Girl, cradling it like a bird in her palm, saying it

over and over to herself: Kadomtseya. Kadomtseya. I existed.
I loved. Her translucent hands over her stratagem heart.

Betsy Housten is a queer writer and massage therapist who earned her MFA at the University of New Orleans and makes her home in Brooklyn. Her writing appears in Autostraddle, Rogue Agent, The Hunger, Lunch, Bone & Ink Press, Little Red Tarot, and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for Best New Poets, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize. You can find her at