Do you remember when we met
in Gomorrah? When you were still beardless,
and I would oil my hair in the lamp light before seeing
you, when we were young, and blushed with youth
like bruised fruit. Did we care then
what our neighbours did
in the dark?

When our first daughter was born
on the River Jordan, when our second
cracked her pink head from my body
like a promise, did we worry
what our friends might be
doing with their tongues?

What new crevices they found
to lick love into or strange flesh
to push pleasure from, when we
called them Sodomites then,
all we meant by it
was neighbour.

When the angels told us to run
from the city, I went with you,
but even the angels knew
that women always look back.
Let me describe for you, Lot,
what your city looked like burning
since you never turned around to see it.

Sulphur ran its sticky fingers over the skin
of our countrymen. It smelled like burning hair
and rancid eggs. I watched as our friends pulled
chunks of brimstone from their faces. Is any form
of loving this indecent?

Cover your eyes tight,
husband, until you see stars, convince
yourself you are looking at Heaven.

Because any man weak enough to hide his eyes while his neighbours
are punished for the way they love deserves a vengeful god.

I would say these things to you now, Lot,
but an ocean has dried itself on my tongue.
So instead I will stand here, while my body blows itself
grain by grain back over the Land of Canaan.
I will stand here
and I will watch you
run.

Karen Finneyfrock

liquor

September 19, 2019

Don’t you drink? I notice you speak slightingly of the bottle. I have drunk since I was fifteen and few things have given me more pleasure. When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whisky? When you are cold and wet what else can warm you? Before an attack who can say anything that gives you the momentary well-being that rum does?… The only time it isn’t good for you is when you write or when you fight. You have to do that cold. But it always helps my shooting. Modern life, too, is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief.

Ernest Hemingway
Letter to Ivan Kashkin 19 August 1935

Being an artist separates you from things in general. One’s mind is working at a faster, more sensitive, more rapid, eye-batting level than most people’s. Most people, let’s say, have ten perceptions per minute, whereas an artist has about sixty or seventy perceptions per minute. I think that’s honestly the reason why so many writers drink or take pills or whatever: to calm themselves down, to quiet this continuous, rapid-running machine. I know that’s why Tennessee Williams did. He had to take sedatives and drinks like that because he had one of the most rapid-running, perceptive minds. He didn’t sleep very well.

Truman Capote
Conversations with Capote

Want

September 17, 2019

She wants a house full of cups and the ghosts
of last century’s lesbians; I want a spotless
apartment, a fast computer. She wants a woodstove,
three cords of ash, an axe; I want
a clean gas flame. She wants a row of jars:
oats, coriander, thick green oil;
I want nothing to store. She wants pomanders,
linens, baby quilts, scrapbooks. She wants Wellesley
reunions. I want gleaming floorboards, the river’s
reflection. She wants shrimp and sweat and salt;
she wants chocolate. I want a raku bowl,
steam rising from rice. She wants goats,
chickens, children. Feeding and weeping. I want
wind from the river freshening cleared rooms.
She wants birthdays, theatres, flags, peonies.
I want words like lasers. She wants a mother’s
tenderness. Touch ancient as the river.
I want a woman’s wit swift as a fox.
She’s in her city, meeting
her deadline; I’m in my mill village out late
with the dog, listening to the pinging wind bells, thinking
of the twelve years of wanting, apart and together.
We’ve kissed all weekend; we want
to drive the hundred miles and try it again.

Joan Larkin

Clit Notes

September 17, 2019

Writing before dawn began as a necessity – I had small children when I first began to write and I needed to use the time before they said, Mama–and that was always around five in the morning. Many years later, after I stopped working at Random House, I just stayed at home for a couple of years. I discovered things about myself I had never thought about before. At first I didn’t know when I wanted to eat, because I had always eaten when it was lunchtime or dinnertime or breakfast time. Work and the children had driven all of my habits… I didn’t know the weekday sounds of my own house; it all made me feel a little giddy.

I was involved in writing Beloved at that time – this was in 1983–and eventually I realized that I was clearer-headed, more confident and generally more intelligent in the morning. The habit of getting up early, which I had formed when the children were young, now became my choice. I am not very bright or very witty or very inventive after the sun goes down.

Recently I was talking to a writer who described something she did whenever she moved to her writing table. I don’t remember exactly what the gesture was–there is something on her desk that she touches before she hits the computer keyboard–but we began to talk about little rituals that one goes through before beginning to write. I, at first, thought I didn’t have a ritual, but then I remembered that I always get up and make a cup of coffee and watch the light come. And she said, Well, that’s a ritual. And I realized that for me this ritual comprises my preparation to enter a space I can only call nonsecular… Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transaction. It’s not being in the light, it’s being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense.

I tell my students one of the most important things they need to know is when they are at their best, creatively. They need to ask themselves, What does the ideal room look like? Is there music? Is there silence? Is there chaos outside or is there serenity outside? What do I need in order to release my imagination?

Toni Morrison
The Paris Review, Issue 128, 1993

Cherry Boy

September 15, 2019

you still ask me why i used to
pin down your arms whenever
we made love –
why i never let you control
the way we moved.
it was because i knew i was
something you did in secret.
the thing that made you flush scarlet whenever
your mother asked you about the cherry
coloured bruises running down your
neck like an aching riverbed.
‘imagine you meet the girl of your dreams
and she sees that?’ she’d say.
see. i knew what i was. of course i did.
and i couldn’t stand it.
i didn’t want it.
so whenever you ask me that question again,
print this answer into your neck too:
i did not want to be your bad habit –
i wanted to be your only habit. ❞

Salma Deera,

Gone

September 15, 2019

THE last, late guest
To the gate we followed;
Goodbye – and the rest
The night-wind swallowed.

House, garden, street,
Lay tenfold gloomy,
Where accents sweet
Had made music to me.

It was but a feast
With the dark coming on;
She was but a guest –
And now, she is gone.

Henrik Ibsen

Someone to

September 15, 2019

I just want someone to grab my tits and tell me I’m pretty.
Actual words I saw on instagram.
Let’s break that statement down.
Someone to grab my tits
And by that I mean
Someone to love me so much they can’t keep their hands off of me
And by that I mean
Someone to want me or at least tell me that they do
And by that I mean
Someone to make me believe that I am worth a fuck
Even if that is all I am worth.
We break girls down into pretty girls and smart girls as if they are mutually exclusive.
Movies brandish the before and after of makeovers so much we can’t help
Glancing in the mirror and only ever seeing ourselves as a before.
So I will drag myself out of bed
Thirty minutes earlier
So I can paint concealer under my eyes (to hide the purple circles)
And onto my chin (to eliminate that red shine that makes it stick out)
And all over my nose (so I don’t look like rudolf when I scratch it and my sensitive skin acts up)
To coat my blonde lashes with layer after layer of ebony paint (to keep me from looking like a sick victorian child)
I will drag myself out of bed
Ten minutes earlier
To try on one outfit (But not that one, it makes my stomach look huge)
To try on two outfits (But not that one, it makes my breasts look smaller than they already are)
To try on three outfits (But not that one, six people told me it looks slutty)
To try on four outfits (Just throw on a hoodie, but that’s the only time you can wear it this week.)
And sometimes?
Three hours earlier
To cry over that assignment I can’t figure out
And to comb through the pages of my backbreaking book for an answer to a problem I’ll never need
To wonder if maybe gagging myself until bile rises in my throat
Until an empty stomach burns in my nose and the nausea hits me like a punch in the everywhere.
Would be easier than going to school
But no one sees that.
They only see me
Fixing my makeup up in bathroom mirror before lunch
And so they throw words as hard as they can
They aim for my heart, using every colourful hallway adjective they’ve heard
Or maybe the words the voice inside calls them
I’d be lying if I said that these words that didn’t haunt me
and follow me
And effect my every action
But I refuse to let them know that
I refuse to let them drag me down simply because they cannot fly
If I’m going to be an Icarus, fucking that’s a good way to go.
fucking, that’s a way to be remembered.
Even if I’m a cautionary tale, at least I got to see the sun.
If you call me a try hard I will say maybe you’re just not trying hard enough
If you call me high maintenance, I will say that it’s better than looking like you.
But when I express how much this hurts to my friend, he pulls a movie Ron Weasley and says
“Well, it’s kinda right.” and proceeds to make fun of me for doing my best
For those sleepless nights kept awake by the light of my laptop.
For shoving a toothbrush up my throat and hating myself for not being able to go through with it.
For raising my hand when the teacher holds up the tightrope I teetered along.
For trying.
I just want someone to tell me I’m pretty.
I just wish I didn’t need someone to tell me I’m pretty.

Kateasz

Me, myself, and I

September 15, 2019

A helpless sigh evades
Wet lips.
For clammy fingertips
Fondle at my chest,
And my toes curl
As they brush past my stomach.
My lips part. I gasp.

I tremble at the sounds
Of my own dirty voices
And the three naked women
Hidden behind my eyelids
Whose touch I echo.

Ellen Dawson