Winter’s Repent

Written by Callie Cheng
Art by Pixabay


Wavy winter
Whispers woes,
But with or without,
Her dissonance shows.

Leather binds
And meads the tide,
With white-eyed woes,
And wounds inside.

Snow laughs piercing
That my wife,
And keeps her frozen
Far from life.

The willows shake
Like fallen stars,
And moon-shed teardrops
Wilt cigars.

Where pine were needles,
Scream her scent,
But why so feeble,
Did winter repent?

As hymn from frost
Do nip my nose,
But pay that cost,
As warm blood knows.

And as washed up winter
Worded white,
The queen did cry,
And slip her might.

A Mother

Written by Allison Lee Riechman-Bennett
Art by Dale Chihuly


There must be a way to both constrict and construct a mother:
To talk through the distortion in favor of a parasite a blessing,
hold the deepening curve and support it past the days of birth.

There must be a way to confess a mother.
To hope due of the few nights stay and a spinal tap,
hold one another while the plastic cradle exits the floor.

There must be a way to confine a mother
To speak unspoken fears to a midnight shift nurse,
hold that truth so tightly that it seeps through the stitches.

There must be a way to breathe without a mother.
To simply dream of drain bags and nothing more,
hold something that drinks from you rather than through.

From QR Codes to a Poetry Debut: Creating the intimate, distant, and exacting with Emily Marie Passos Duffy

Emily Marie Passos Duffy is a poet and itinerant performing artist. She was a finalist for the Noemi Press 2020 Book Award and a finalist of the 2020 Inverted Syntax Sublingua Prize for Poetry. She was named a 2020 Disquiet International Luso-American fellow. She earned her MFA at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. She is a collaborator with Writers Warehouse, a mobile writers’ community resource, and co-founder of Flores de Maracujá, a collaborative Lisbon-based arts project. She is a PhD student in Translation Studies at the Catholic University of Lisbon. Her first book of poetry is forthcoming with Perennial Press.


O: When did you begin writing? 

Emily:  I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and, before that, storytelling. 

O: Is there a writer that you look up to, whether it be someone who motivated you to begin writing or someone whose work inspires you today? 

E: This is a tough question because there are so many writers I admire who have helped me along my way. I was named after Emily Dickinson, and she has been a huge influence on my capacity to imagine through poetry. The fiction of Dominican-born modernist Jean Rhys, helped me give myself permission to be pathetic (and to understand the curious power in that stance). Stephanie Kaylor and Rachel Rabbit White are present-day poetry titans in the realm of writing on erotic labor, in my eyes. Irene Silt has written some of the best prose on sex work and anti-work I have encountered. Shauna Barbosa and Lucas de Lima are also big poetic inspirations. 

O: If you had to describe your work in three words, what would they be and why? 

E: Intimate, distant, exacting. “Exacting” because I like to say things precisely. I want my words to create an atmosphere, or a vibe, and also be very direct and sharp in some ways. Intimate and distant are paradoxical words I’d place on two poles— and playing with formal choices helps me explore that tension and write into the space between… kind of like seeing a city from inside versus above or just passing. I like to toggle and move around like this— like how would this emotion or experience be rendered if my face was right up against it…. how would I write it from far away?  

O: What is your favorite part of the creative process? 

E: My favorite part is the flow, presence, and devotion that comes through making. There is lots of doubt, sure, and also a surrender — to a hope that no matter what happens it’s going to turn out as it’s meant to. 

O: Your work is riveting, authentic, and thought-provoking. Where does your inspiration come from? 

E: I love those words! My inspiration comes from travel, family stories of migration and survival that I’ve inherited, half a decade of stripping, my femininity, my queerness, the practice of walking in cities, my anger and dissatisfaction with and also love of, this violent, beautiful, surprising, and oftentimes, bullshit, world. 

O: What is your favorite piece of work so far and why is it your favorite? (Please include a link if you have one, we’d love to include it on the website!) 

E: It’s not necessarily a favorite, but it’s one I’d like to share. A little over a year ago I started a monthly newsletter as a way to connect with people at a different pace than Instagram offers. I publish it once a month—the theme is big moods// disquietude. This has been a really rewarding endeavor. The monthly schedule keeps me accountable to my own writing practice, and it’s a way to offer an unmediated and intimate piece of writing and let people know what I’m up to, what I’m listening to, reading, etc. I love hearing from people that receiving it has brightened their day. 

O: Of course, we have to extend our sincerest congratulations on your upcoming poetry collection, Hemorrhaging Want & Water, which is going to be published with Perennial Press! Could you take us through your journey of publication with them and what you’re most excited about with this collection? 

E: Thank you!! From the moment they accepted my manuscript and notified me of their decision, Perennial Press has been attentive, collaborative, and nurturing. I have felt incredibly empowered as an artist throughout this process and I am so grateful to everyone involved.  

The thing that feels most exciting is that, once it’s out there, this book is going to have a life of its own. I can’t even begin to imagine the experiences that a reader may have with it, which is both terrifying and really, really cool.

O: If there could be only one (though we’re sure there are so many), what is the ultimate takeaway that you want readers to have by the final page of this collection? 

E: Hold your eighteen-year-old self gently by the hand. 

O: Outside of writing, you’ve also worked with Writers Warehouse and spearheaded Flores de Maracujá. For readers who might not be entirely familiar with either of these, could you give a little background on both organizations and talk a bit about your work there—e.g., what your favorite parts of your role are, and why you were motivated to join or jumpstart these organizations? 

E: These have been more projects than organizations. For me the word organization implies something fixed or institutionalized, which neither of these projects are. Writers Warehouse was founded in 2016 in Boulder, Colorado. You can read more about the history and our work here. My favorite part of Writers Warehouse has been working with Ellie Swensson, an incredible infrastructure poet who is now doing research in the field of urban planning. Our workflow has always prioritized resting when we’ve needed to, which challenges the notion that successful community endeavors have to be long-term or perpetually sustained. 

With Flores de Maracujá, Inês Oliveira and I are creating a body of work that promotes sensuality, big feelings, and communal play. We’ve sold our pieces at fairs in Lisbon, and exhibited one in the east window gallery in Boulder, Colorado. We are still making visual pieces that combine drawing, collage, and typewriter poems, and we’ve also pivoted to organizing seasonal events with food, music, and art. What motivates me in projects is the generative spark that comes from collaboration, from dreaming and making together. Each project or event carries the signature of all of those involved. 

O: You’ve also completed a recent project which involved poetry, public space, and… QR codes?! Please tell us more about this project! 

E: This one was a lot of fun! I placed QR codes at miradouros, or lookout points, throughout Lisbon. The QR codes led to google forms which contained poetry prompts people could respond to; for example, one prompt was, “describe the view using only colors.” I got lots of gorgeous responses in many different languages and only one “go fuck urself” which is a great ratio for any anonymous public forum. I created a collective poem from these submissions with an accompanying video. I also wrote an original poem for each miradouro included in the project. So far I’ve written seven miradouro poems, and I intend to keep going. I collaborated with German student and multidisciplinary artist Katharina Sonneberg, who I’d met through a mutual friend. I was describing the project to her over coffee and she resonated with the idea so much she ended up creating a collage for each of my miradouro poems. This project was part of an exhibition called Sensing the City- Sense of the City which was an inter-city joint venture between Berlin and Lisbon.  

O: If you could give new writers some advice from what you’ve learned, whether it’s about creative processes or finding their voice, what would it be?

E: Don’t let older men with advanced degrees and god complexes tell you what is good writing or what you are capable of! Do, as I remember poet and educator Tongo Eisen-Martin saying during a summer writing program at Naropa University: “write about the shit you see that no one else does.” The things that make you feel strange, alone, or different— dive towards them. Try to language them… eff the ineffable. Find writers that you like and nourish yourself with their words. Nourish yourself also with other creative practices so you don’t get too discouraged when language is inadequate to hold the totality of what you long to express. And keep writing! Show up for writing like it’s your lover—like you care a lot and want to make it coffee in the morning. 

O: Do you have any upcoming projects that we should look out for? 

E: Definitely subscribe to my newsletter for updates, upcoming workshops, readings, etc. I  have a couple of nascent translation projects in the works so stay tuned! 


Thank you to Emily for sitting down to chat with us about everything from writing to learning to life! Find out more about Emily and her amazing work by checking out her newsletter and Instagram.

Lovesick

Written by Atticus Payne
Art by Salvator Rosa


A week ago, you bugged me—practically harassed me.
See,
                   you weighed down every thought with a tiny stone, sewn gently, seeds of doubt into the high-strung knit of my heart just where you knew the seams would be. Because you sewed me: from dust to bone to this reckless mind. But just a speck and nothing more, borne by every thought till it coalesced in—
hate?
No. Certainly something close, though. The same colour, in a different shade.
Funny, what unseating a mere day’s thoughts will do to you; gentle waves working at hardened silt formations, dissolving rough ridges into something a little softer. You’ll pause, choke; your eyes blinking, search for some way out. 
At least let me understand what this is. Discomfort? Too general.
Guilt? Warmer.
Shame?
There it was: the thought that had been sinking its sharpened roots in. “This is not right.” There. There it was. Now that it’d been named, I could barely think of anything else without the words taking all the space. It is how some describe love, and yet, infinitely worse. Love is a haze, not a blinding light. Right? 
It was night, and the lamps were dimmed. So with a silent room and locked door, I…knelt. 
I have not done this in a longvery long time. 
Nothing. 
Fine. So I did the speaking. The more I spoke, the more the words came, till with the torrent, the pressing weight of shame had lessened somewhat. I could think again. 
How I thought. 
The world’s a rather judgement-based place. Yet when your knees are bruised and your neck a mess from bowing the head; when your lips are cracked from speaking of everything you could possibly think of, it’s hard to get unsettled again. There’s a steadiness to being on your knees—a kind of peace.
A week ago, you bothered me, and it was the best, most uncomfortable bothering. 
Why would you go silent now? 
What have I done to stop it? To block you out? How can I bridge this gap?
Nothing.
Bother me again, will you?
I miss you.
Am I mad? 
Blind me, bind me. 
Without you I’m now left, stranded in the in between, floating between two ends of complete and incomplete. 
Come on, now. How could you do this?
There’s no cleverness to this. No hidden commentary or thought, nothing weaved in the narrative. I am nothing but
Lovesick.

Let me Remember your Sunshine

Written by Gabriella Troy
Art by Andrea Piacquadio


Memory doesn’t usually work in my favor.
I lose what I love
and I replay what I fear.
Why is my brain so set against
my happiness?

I want to remember yesterday forever:
sweet strawberry bursting onto my tongue,
bubbles floating up and shimmering in the sun,
the warmth from your giant bear-hug.

It’s not fair that
I only get this once a year.
I want to replay your laugh
over and over
until the next year comes.

But what if it never comes?
And I can’t see
through the fog in my brain
to the happiness that surrounded us?

I don’t want to be stuck
in this storm of what-if:
winter will come
but it’s still summer now.

You’re already 247 miles away
but I pretend you’re still here with me,
sitting in a green field of wildflowers,
fresh air brushing my face–
or is that a dandelion tickling my nose?

I’m lying face up,
looking right into the sun:
my eyes are closed
but the sun is still there.
If I burn you into my memory will you stay?
Or will I be blind until next summer comes?

Disaster

Written by Gabriella Troy
Art by Rizky Sabriansyah


I’m a disaster walking
down the street.

Too many pieces to hold together;
as I glitter in the sun
they slip
and I wait
to come crashing down after them.

My mind and my body and my mind
                             black
I’m a robber of my own future but
I can’t disguise in daylight
so I melt
                          a shadow
bruises under my eyes.

I see everything in a haze
                          see nothing
a lost wanderer
who won’t ask for directions.

Spinning in circles
                           my mind
down the gutter I’m fruit
once sweet but now
                           black
too far gone.

Just need to leave
                           taxi
away, anywhere.
I walk into the street
but don’t raise my hand
                           yellow car
light flashes.

Open my eyes
                           my mind
partially gone
partially whole
I can’t make a collage out of my ugly
                            disaster

Eliza Kent: Writing the Striking and Impassioned in Her Poetry Debut “You Were the Graveyard” 

Eliza Kent is an author from Phoenix, Arizona studying for her Bachelors in filmmaking. After periodically writing poetry while completing her first three novels, she accumulated over a hundred poems. Her poetry book, “You Were the Graveyard” is releasing on May 27 and can be bought where books are sold.


O: When did you begin writing? 

Eliza: I’ve been writing since I can remember. It started with comic stories and developed into little booklets. When I was eleven, I began plotting what became my first full-length novel. Since I was fourteen, I haven’t stopped those serious projects.

O: Is there a writer that you look up to, whether it be someone who motivated you to begin drawing or someone whose work inspires you today? 

E: There are a lot of writers I feel I look up to, but the first one would be Neil Gaiman. I remember watching Coraline for the first time and feeling strangely inspired. At that age, I had never watched anything so spooky. Weirdly enough, that inspired me to begin writing my own creepy stories. Books eventually turned into poetry. Another person that inspires me, especially in my poetry, is Taylor Swift. Her lyrics are so metaphorical and have definitely made me want to get better at planting my own hidden meanings in my words.

O: If you had to describe your work in three words, what would they be and why? 

E: Lyrical, intense, and honest.

O: What is your favorite part of the creative process? 

E: I love seeing my work come together in the revision/ending stages. Drafts are often just a barf of the idea in my mind, and as fun as they are, they’re not often a good representation of my intention. Watching my work become what I imagined is so powerful.

O: Your work is striking, heartbreaking, and impassioned. Where does your inspiration come from? 

E: I like to think that my writing comes from all the little moments in between the big events. Some bad people and times in my life inspired my poems, but I often find myself remembering the little events, rather than the huge betrayals. You always remember the weather on your worst days or the way the open window felt. I try to encapsulate that into my poems. Words can’t describe massive emotions like love and loss, but starting with describing how they felt in individual moments narrows it down.

O: What is your favorite piece of work so far and why is it your favorite? (Please include a link if you have one, we’d love to include it on the website!) 

E: It’s hard to pinpoint one piece of work that’s my favorite because they all represent different stages of myself. But if I had to choose one, it would probably be rosie or Hysterics. Both of these poems are very personal to me, and both showcase a similar time in my life.

O: Okay, so of course, we have to ask you about your poetry collection debut! Could you talk about what inspired you to start this collection and why it’s titled “You Were the Graveyard”? 

E: My poetry collection naturally grew over the years. At first, it became a casual part of my routine. But as I self workshopped my poems, I realized they had potential. I wanted to put together a collection of poetry for several years, but they never felt cohesive enough until recent months. I reached a point with all my poems that it felt a section of my life had a clear beginning and end, all documented in my writing. I categorized my poems to tell that story. I drew the title, “You Were the Graveyard” from a line in one of my poems Hysterics. I thought it described the overall emotion behind most of the poems. “You Were the Graveyard” is for when you feel like somebody is a graveyard for all of your love and emotion.

O: Your poems in this collection are especially lyrical and metaphorical. How did you find your style and voice throughout the process of writing these poems? 

E: I’ve always been pretty good at noticing little details, and throughout the years I would jot down little things that seemed important. Oftentimes, I would come back to them years later and just write and revise them until I found something I liked. For my other poems, I would just brain dump my emotions and metaphors would come naturally with the flow. Above else, I tried conveying my style in the way I felt things. Some would come on very quickly, others simmered in my mind for years before they got words.

O: This is more of a logistical question, but we’d love to hear about the process of self-publishing and how it’s worked out for you. Have you encountered any challenges along the way? What made you choose this route over traditional publishing? 

E: There are so many challenges in self-publishing, most of them coming from annoying self-publishing rules and software. My other issues have been with promotion, and all the tiny annoying things I don’t think authors should have to worry about. Putting that aside, I chose to do it for my collection of poetry because I wanted the freedom to tell my words exactly how they were. These poems are so personal to me, so I couldn’t imagine altering them for a publication like I would for my fictional projects.

O: You’re working on a few short films for social media promotion! What attracts you to film as a creative medium—both in terms of why you’ve elected to use it for promoting your collection and also why you’ve chosen to study it in college? 

E: Storytelling has always been my calling. It started with writing books, then poetry, and in the last few years I’ve become interested in telling stories through film. I find it so interesting because you can show details on screen rather than just saying them. For some of my poems, I thought adding imagery and a physical image to them would help people relate. I’m currently working on a short film for my poem rosie. I’m also writing and directing a short film over the summer.

O: If you could give new artists some advice from what you’ve learned, what would it be?

E: Stay true to your personal style and the genres that call to you. As a young writer, there was pressure for me to write less mature things instead of love poems and thrillers. But I kept true to what I knew I could write, and it paid off because I always felt satisfied with it. Never let anyone tell you what is right or wrong. That being said, don’t be closed to constructive feedback. Knowing the difference between pointless criticism and constructive feedback is often the key between destroyed confidence and, well, destroyed confidence (but with a better plot this time!).

O: Do you have any upcoming projects that we should look out for? 

E: Yes! I’m working on filming a short film over the summer for one of my poems rosie. I’m also always writing more novels! While I do not plan on self-publishing any of my fictional novels, I’m always working on several projects which I either share or provide updates on, on my Instagram. 


Everybody give a hand to Eliza for her time answering all of our most pressing questions about writing and her exciting new debut “You Were the Graveyard! You can find out more about her on her website and also on her Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok.

PS. Don’t forget to preorder her book where books are sold!

Ihminen

Written by Atticus Payne
Art by William Blake


(Ihminen: human)

We humans, all so tastelessly mortal. Dropped onto cliffs hugged by ravines, a cord around the neck our only harness, frantic fingers; opposable, fragile thumbs, gripping, slipping, holding on ‘til we fall.

No landing kills you—just your own porous bones.

One by one, I watch them lose their hold. Fingers with skin worn ‘til only bone shows, others more torn by their eyes and not the stones. One by one, I watch them die, hear them cry, shake most from anger in their last sigh as they try so much to stay alive, while next to them, another ihminen falls.

I’ve seen some try to climb—upwards, in a game of chasing the rain. The air thins that far above; presses down on the chest ‘til ribs crack, ‘til you can’t catch your breath. “Searching,” they say. “For what?” I reply. 

“Absolution.”

Then, again, I watch them die.

They crumple from the shivers, so easily that for a moment you could forgive yourself the thought that they’d gone and done; that this was their climax. 

It’s just death. Just as futile as the rest.

So I stand and wait and lock my muscles as best I can. It’s useless, I swear. All it does is make you stare at the gasp of the gallows and wonder if you’re next. I stand, and wait, and watch, and pray; for mercy, for control, for anything to end it all. Slowly, I lessen the pleas. Just gouge my eyes out.

Words get swept by the wind.

Ihminen. Human. Frail, and unmade for this plane. 

Unknot the cord, step off the ledge. What end is there if you can’t see it?

Should I die, I will have earned it.

Have flown, for a second, and not cared.

A Robot Drives Me Home

Written by Cassidy Bull
Art by Alejandro Skol


A beep—the sensor scans the chip in my arm, clocking me out for the day. The automatic doors of my office building slide open, and I breathe a sigh of relief as I step out. 

The city’s bustling swarms me as I head to the bus stop. People glide across the sidewalk, wearing the latest i-glasses. Texts and TV and video games scroll over the lens screens. The skyscrapers are covered in digitized advertisements. Everywhere, there’s no respite from all this urging to buy.

Three different pop-up holograms appear in front of me as I walk. Prostitute androids coo and coax, claiming they’re more lifelike than ever. 

I guess the city’s algorithm senses my misery. 

I pass straight through them.

I can barely remember life before it turned robotic. 

Once I reach the stop, I stare down at the screens built into the ground while I wait for the bus. 

I hate the bus. But it’s better than the self-driving taxis, which often malfunction. Despite the deaths every day, they’re still the most popular mode of transportation. Their original design was faulty, something with the proximity sensors, but profits would have tanked if they issued a mass recall. So they didn’t. Only the rich own their own cars. The rest of us sign waivers saying we won’t sue if we die. 

I keep waiting for someone to do something about this artificial existence. Sometimes I think I might. I’m not sure what I would do exactly. I could burn down the server district, or plant a garden. 

The bus stops in front of me. 

I peer at the faceless robot in the driver’s seat. I shouldn’t get on. I don’t want to. But if I don’t, I’ll get a visit from the government androids, asking why I broke routine. 

With a sigh, I swipe my wrist under the scanner on the bus’ side. 

The doors open.

Depression Dust

Written by Rigby Celeste
Art by Karolina Grabowska


Depression convinced me to hole up in my apartment. I didn’t sleep through my days, like the movies have you believe. I tried to maintain a small routine. I checked in on my classes; though, I had no work to hand in. I made food for myself, but only convenient stuff, stuff you can microwave. I fed the cat. Nonetheless, my days felt empty. Only one part of my routine genuinely felt productive: When the monotony of my waking life overwhelmed me, I could kneel in my kitchen, pull the bottles of disinfectant from under my sink, and clean.

I would start with the rag, the one with fleur de lis indented along its length, woven like a plush paper towel. I pulled it along the length of our plastic counters and repeated. My first pass was dry. As the rag approached the cliff of the counter, individual specks of dust and crumbs and basil leaves rained on our linoleum floor. I made my cleaning process precise. I’d start in the corner where our cooking oils were kept. I picked up each slicked bottle one at a time and transferred them to the center of our stove. With effort, I could reach into the pockets of gunk where the counters met the wall, then pull all of it together and down it would fall to our checkered floor. 

Next, to the stove, where I’d replace the oils to their home and transfer the burner covers to the newly dusted corner. The crumbs on the stove were usually big. Expect uncooked pasta bits, plates of dried tomato sauce, and rat-gray indeterminate specks. Instead of the flat length of my rag, I would roll it up to give it some bulk. Down, down, down all the food would fall.

Once the stove was clear, I passed my rag along the open area next to the stove. On inspired nights this counter could shoulder tiny bowls of prepped onion, garlic, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, anxious vegetables anticipating the rush of hot oil. The next morning, I would be the one-man clean up crew. The clutter would often spill over to the far right counter in the kitchen. The counter: our patient friend. He held open boxes of cereal, unlidded bouillon, and packaging my roommates forgot to throw out. In order to express my love for him, I lidded the jars and placed boxes in the cabinets. I wiped him off until he was dust-free.

Though my counters were now spotless, the floor became victim to the crumbs. All of the dust and kibble that my rag pushed landed down below. Bits of food and plastic skirted to the far reaches of the ground. Now, my duty was to sweep it all away. I used the broom to tease the corners of the room. I could gather the bits all together like I did on the counters, but instead of discarding off an edge, I pulled it into the dustpan. Weightlessly, I’d drop the dust into the trash.

After sweeping, I finally reveled in the joy of spritzing disinfectant. It would go everywhere! For a moment, I was a child again, in a swimming pool with a squirt gun aimed at my cousin’s head. When all I could breathe was sterile citrus, I would put my bottle down and scrub. All of my frustrations and anxiety would channel into my rag. It would twitch along the surface of my counter as my wrist dug into the murky sections of my counter. When I found something stuck, I would imagine my arm dipping into the volume of the counter. I could curl my wrist, press my palm, then allow the pressure to roll through my muscles until it hit my tricep. I Press, press, press, until the spot went away. Finally, I’d step back and admire a room that practically sparkled.  In the long months of uncertainty, between depression naps and cleaning, I attended therapy. My therapist emphasized routine. What does your perfect day look like? Now I do that. On my perfect day, I wake up and before my body could switch on, I am already on my routine: wiping, then scrubbing, then sweeping. I used the same rag every time. What once was elegant in its bleach white had become green-gray with pockmarks of bright oranges and blacks. It was no work of art, but each hue stood as a trophy of a time I came and I conquered. It was not the dirt that I heroed, but the slew of white noise that replaced my brain. For at least an hour I had coherent thoughts: dust, then sweep, then spray.