it is not an unfair name—
it was a place of commerce and trade and all the fiddly little words
one uses when they are trying to distance themself from the truth of the matter,
the truth that this commerce and trade were wrought with human capital
threaded under the streets
yeah, because court square fountain, all gleaming and glorious under the burning alabama sun,
stands on what was once an auction block.
[what are we honouring here? what are we trying to convince ourselves?]
four years ago i woke up at exactly midnight and wept
over my phone screen.
four years ago i watched a pretty white boy
hold up a sign,
felt the yelling in the palms of my hands.
four years ago i didn't know who would last longer:
me, or the man on the sign.
four years ago someone lit a fuse;
i hear the hissing, i am still
waiting for the boom
waiting for the boom
a/n: felt some mad anxiety on election night, wrote part of this, forgot about it, found it today and polished it up. i am thankfully less anxious, though whether or not the boom has happened or not is up for interpretation.
stay safe and take care of yourselves, wherever you are.
etude, after six months
i wouldn't call it a "falling out of love";
that implies that i noticed
i was drifting away
i wouldn't call it "burnout" either;
that implies there was a fire, once
burning hot and angry in my chest.
it's more like
"the storm has passed," there is no
static building up in the clouds
anymore. when lightning strikes it
never strikes the ground.
and calls you by a name now unknown || Pretty Little Thing pt. 2
your deadname has come up more in the past week than it has in the past year
["x?" "i go by y"
"x?" "it's y, and here"
"x?" "x?" "...here"]
and you feel your legs shudder when she says it
[can't let any other part of yourself shake or she'll see it, the camera is on]
it looks foreign on paper, on screens, when you're seeing it,
but you hear it and it sets off a visceral rattle in your spine,
the syllables crawling under your skin and taking root in your nervous system
[by god you are a system of nerves at this point,
anything could stall the breath in your lungs just a second long enough to be noticeable and
you can't let her see; you can't let anyone see]
you don't remember the rest of the conversation.
it goes in one ear and out the other, echoing a bit in your brain on the way.
when it's over, you hang up, nearly collapse over your computer,
and breathe breathe breathe
hug your chest and remind yourself
as long as you are breathing you are fighting
and you are not done fighting.
but you still can feel "you'll always be my baby girl" pooling in the bottoms of your lungs hours later.
she shows you a face that is supposedly your own || Pretty Little Thing pt. 1
and you show her one side of your half-shaved head and she presses her lips,
or maybe she doesn't. maybe you're imagining the tone changing in her voice when she asks
"how do you fix your hair?"
you pause, uh-um-well for a moment before pointing to the knot you've tied your hair into
[the knot that's led your best friends to affectionately call you 'manbun,'
which you refuse to admit you love with all your heart]
and say, "like this."
[she still thinks you want to go into aerospace.
you haven't wanted to go into aerospace since ninth grade.
you tell her 'digital animation' and her face tightens again.]
she hums and says "we'll have to figure out something before senior pictures"
and your heart less drops and more hits terminal velocity,
only because it's been falling since she brought up your hair.
she says the word "dress" while you're half-paying attention
[dreaming about how it must feel to be normal]
and you don't know if she means it as a noun or verb
[you're thinking noun and you feel your plastered smile crack, just a bit.]
you don't tell her that you've already talked with your mother and
you don't want her the two of you agreed someone else is taking your pictures
because if she makes you cross your legs
or prop your pretty chin in your pretty hand like a
Pretty Little Thing
you might just
feelin' raw in this chili's tonight
part 2 forthcoming, i'll link it in the comments once it's up.
Summer in Alabama means strong storms: lots of rain, window-shaking thunder, and forty-mile-per-hour wind gusts. I’ve learned not to be so scared of them - they’re beautiful, actually. I stand under the overhang on my porch and watch as the wind picks up. The cicadas hum and the birds call in a dissonant crescendo until suddenly, they don’t, and then lightning arcs down from the sky. The trees in my yard are tall enough to catch the high-up winds, and their branches wave and tangle together. Sometimes they fall - we have a twelve-footer hanging on our fence that we’ve left because it looks cool. After the most recent storm, the yard is littered with leafy twigs and thicker, more hearty branches. My sister’s worried the trees themselves will fall, because when the wind blows hard enough, the whole trunk sways.
I’ve never been worried about the tall trees - the hackberries are strong, and the oaks have aggressive root systems, so they’re not going anywhere. But we have two smallish crape myrtles not far from the porch that are thin and twisting. They came from the tree in our driveway - one that’s blossoms create snow-like flurries when the wind blows the right way - and its the seeds blew into potted plants and sprouted trees, and once they were big enough, we relocated them to the earth. I’ve watched them through many a storm, awed as they bent and stretched in the wind, their trunks thin enough to snap. They’re bigger now, but I still worry that they’ll break in a too-strong gust of wind.
They’re surprisingly resilient. They remind me a bit of myself - I too am thin and twisting, my spine curving laterally in two different places like the knobbly splits in the crape myrtle’s trunk. I too am worried I might snap in metaphorical strong winds, am worried I’m too thin and may be uprooted.
But I don’t. I haven’t yet. I just keep bending.
flash fiction practise #1: [untitled]
i never thought much of bees.
sara did though. she planted flowers for them in the window box outside her apartment, liked to watch them as they ducked into the lilies and zinnias.
i asked her what she thought of the bee movie once and she gave me one of those looks that said go to hell but also don’t stop talking. please; the silence is killing me slowly. or maybe i was too busy looking at myself reflected in her to really notice.
but now she’s gone and the bees are rattling in my skull.
you thought it’d be more in your face, but
it feels more peripheral -
your parents don’t yell for you across the house anymore,
your sister has stopped mangling it into nicknames that used to feel like needles under your skin,
you and your family have the kind of almost-ESP that people do when they’re close:
names don’t have to be said, you know exactly who’s talking to who.
so it is easy to forget
[sometimes it is easy to forget the names you have chosen for yourself,
real-life, online, in-between;
they slip between your fingers at times,
and you hover around
until it isn’t so easy to forget.
you have to enter it when you’re filling out online forms to be paid,
the process frustrates you [for more than one reason] and you set it aside,
go back to your room and your eyes fall
on a library card,
buried under books and paper birds and Christmas-themed candy.
only the name on it is visible.
you wonder if you’re being taunted.
soldier - from soldier//poet//king series
His name is Elias and he is a soldier. He is blonde and tall and mighty and good with women even though he has no interest in them. His eyes are green as the sea his mother bore him by - he feels the saltwater tugging at his blood when he nears, and the smell of the ocean is like home. He is twice as large as his mother, but just as gentle. Some days he rides down to the sea and sits on the balcony of her lighthouse, and they drink sweet mead and watch the sun set. She tells him of the fishermen who come to court her, he tells her of the kitchen boy he’s falling in love with, and both of them will laugh at their circumstances. Because she has no interest in men anymore, and he has caught the eye of the princess, and neither of them can bear to see the outcome of the most likely circumstance.
His name is Elias and he is afraid of snakes. He is also afraid of his destiny and what it means he will have to do. Sometimes he feels suffocated under the weight of his kingdom’s sky, forever blue-grey in the snow. Some days, he wants to tear his way out of the city walls, his love in his arms, and run down to the lighthouse, where he can live out the rest of his days in peace. His love calls him a hopeless romantic, but he knows there’s affection in it. His love’s name is Adam, and he is a brown-eyed kitchen boy who Elias found trying to teach himself how to read on the roof during a nightly patrol. Since then, Adam has learned how to read, and Elias has learned how the moonlight reflects in dusky brown eyes. He has also learned that the space between his arms is painfully empty without Adam there.
His name is Elias, and he does not wish to be a soldier anymore, not since the day he was told to burn a rebellious village to the ground, and watched mothers and children burn to death in their homes. It made him sick, to realise what he had done, to wash the soot and blood from his hands and armour. He wishes he could leave, take Adam by the waist and run off to the sea, but if he does, they will both lose their heads, and that is not a risk worth taking.
His name is Elias, and he is waiting for something to change.
q&a time! #paperbirdqanda
it took me way too long to realise that the "qanda" was q&a and not panda but with a q.
so onto the qanda, i guess. putting #paperbirdqanda in the text body for searchability.
1. what got you into writing?
i feel like i've always been writing - like i've always been reading - but it didn't really start being "a thing that i did" until sixth?? grade. i'm not really sure - so many of my memories from that time mysteriously vanished so probably six or seventh grade at the latest. i do know my longform-writing genesis though - i was too impatient to wait for the next book in a series i was reading to come out, so i decided to write it myself. needless to say, it was hot garbage.
2. outside of wtw/prose, who are your biggest writing influences?
T.S. Eliot? ee cummings? modernist poets in general? ocean vuong? at least in the poetry side of things.
for fiction i'm not sure. it's likely that every book [or work, in general] i've ever read has influenced me in some way. i get a lot of inspiration from film and music too.
3. what’s the significance behind your profile picture(s)?
it's one of my 23 crows and their name is jessica. they control the left knee.
4. top fifteen favorite books - go. (if you don’t know what exactly are your favorite fifteen, just name twenty you like.)
Here are 10. I’m struggling to come up with any more mostly because all I read are book series:
-Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo [all-time favourite] [the whole dulogy is good]
-Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine [the whole series is good]
-Scythe by Neal Shusterman [see above]
-Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir [lesbian necromancers! in space! a masterpiece]
-Magnus Chase: The Hammer of Thor [almost solely because Alex Fierro helped me realise that gender wasn't binary]
-Loki by McKenzie Lee [bi gnc angry Loki is a fucking icon]
-The Wanderers by Chuck Wendig [don't reccomend reading until after the pandemic. gave me a panic attack when i re-read in march]
-Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas [but only that one, the rest of the series declines from there.]
-The Miseducation of Cameron Post by
-The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
5. what’s the significance behind your username?
honestly i thought it looked nice + crows are children and i love them.
6. any particularly stupid quote that you nevertheless love?
Can’t remember which of my friends [or if it was me] that said it but “Don’t make your emotions a Molotov cocktail.” That was an…..interesting mental health club meeting.
7. how would you define your current writing style? do you think this is your set style, or are you still evolving?
My current style is different per genre - for fiction I’d call it i-can’t-ever-write-longform, and for poetry it’s confessional in a beating-around-the-bush type of way.
I struggle a lot putting definitions on my own writing because I live with it, though I have had someone say they wrote "a much more [me] description" - not verbose, but not plain either.
8. favorite song(s)? favorite song(s) to listen to ironically?
favourite song would probably be uhh "City of Angels" by 24kgoldn, at least right now. favourite song to listen to unironically is that "ra ra rasputin" Boney M song. masterpiece.
9. a common writing error or trend that annoys you?
when people write out 5 instead of five. there's a specific grammar rule for this and i take it one step further by saying NEVER write out numbers in narrative prose.
10. should pineapple be on pizza?
i am opening myself up to a world of hurt, but yes. absolutely. It is the best thing and you can fight me on this.