i want to tell her dead girls don’t get into harvard
sometimes i feel like every door in the world could be locked and i wouldn’t know the difference. like how many sides does a window really have. why are there so many tree trunks in my front yard. / mom, did we buy a hatchet? a liar is always a mouth but a mouth is not always a boy.
actually, i’m sitting in a bathtub and and some woman is getting paid to tell me water doesn’t exist.
teenage girls love to say hometown like we didn’t watch it burn. your guidance counselor loves to say suspension like you started the fire. sometimes, all it takes is an afterparty. the balloons deflate and you are on a boat in the middle of his basement. administration tucks you in her file cabinet. someone will “look into it”. the men flip our stories like an hourglass.
how many of us will leave screaming before the door slams?
somewhere in a small town, there is a girl who can’t say her own name. in july she will say what she should’ve said in january.
i want to tell her graduation and a house in the city
what is left here but a nickname you wish they’d stop calling you. a prom you never attended but remember so well. there is a summer break hung in each of our closets.
sometimes, all you have to lose is your own hands.
things the kids [didn’t know]
when it snows in nevada [when grandmas body has begun to freeze]
she crosses the stateline with a hammer in her bag. [she doesn’t carry a knife anymore, lost it somewhere in her last marriage]
when she shows up at our door, the oven is buzzing and the dogs are barking and my mom is yelling about the pipes and [my grandfather is telling my mother that we will only ever be women] and the news is reminding us that a body is [temporary], i never know how much i will miss this noise. until i do.
when it snows in nevada, grandma writes her [will] in front of our fireplace “it’s really just that pair of earrings and my bible” and “i hope rod will give the knife back so that you girls can [protect yourself] when im gone”. she chuckles as the hospice nurse changes her dressing. i want this to be a metaphor. but grandma is gone, a year this spring. she asked me to build her a house. and now, i write her into every story i tell. look how honestly we can live [beneath my fingertips].
when it snows in nevada, when grandma [and her care team] are moved into my room, we begin hanging her life from the walls. old scrapbook pages and [clothes she grew out of and then back into]. she wants to say goodbye but she doesn’t want a funeral.
[when the pain started spilling from under the welcome mat. when her stomach was filled with fists. when none of us left the house. the women gather around her like we are a pack of sorry animals. in our living room, my mother speaks with certainty. it is the first time in months that the birds leave her chest. my grandfather still doesn’t know].
i am only a child for as long as i can hold my breath. i only know what is whispered into my door-hinge. i only know what the police report says. i only know-
[loss like this].
MYA RIGOLI is an eighteen year old poet. She loves iced coffee, reading with her dogs, and true crime. Her work has been featured by Button Poetry, the California Endowment, and Get Lit Words Ignite. She has competed in the international youth slam Brave New Voices, as well as winning the Classic Slam. She is pursuing a veterinary degree.
CINDY QIANG has been painting and sketching since the sixth grade. She mostly uses acrylic paints and pen for her portfolio works. Cindy has won several Gold Key Scholastics Awards in Art and continues to pursue her passion through an art minor at New York University. In addition to art, she is also studying dentistry at NYU and likes to run and play the piano for fun.
A METAPHORICAL ILLUSTRATION OF ONE WOMAN’S BIPOLAR CYCLE THROUGH THE USAGE OF THE LUNAR PHASES
She is beautiful and glorious. I talk about the goddess in hushed tones—she, not I, because I have been consumed by her and her capacity for everything. I love her, I admire her, I worry for her, I cannot compete with her. I want her to stay, I want her to go. I can’t handle her, but I love the way she handles herself. No longer tossed around and spun about, she’s not someone that things just happen to. Instead she happens to other people, lawless and incalculable, the hazy jolt of realization as the sun comes up after you watched it set those endless hours ago—the sun! The sun! Oh, it’s time to sleep, isn’t it?
She doesn’t sleep. She is fire, fire, fire.
If I had to pick a word to describe her in those times, only one suffices. The word fits her like couture, tailored and made to measurement. Violence. Her heart threatens to burst like a ripe clementine in the fist of a 7-year-old, forcefully, carelessly, delightfully. She’s all Shakespearian tragedy in her limbs, the way she plummets dramatically onto the floor, all too aware the way her hair scatters in the silence. Then she peels one eye open and grins, her friends all laughing at her antics. And though the violence wears a pretty face, she still has bruised knees from the fall and a mark behind her hip and one just under her lip and another one another one another one—
But Sappho said, “all can be endured, for even a pauper…”
All can be endured for the way they look at her, mirth in their eyes. She is the unspoken word at the end of a poem lost to time. She feels loved and her desire swallows it so whole there isn’t even a tiny bit left for the rest of her. It’s never enough.
She is fire, fire, fire. And she burns through it all.
She is her own narcissism and everything that entails. People search for purpose. She has found hers: devoted worshipper at her own altar, she is her own lighthouse and her own nightlight and her own god and her own savior and her own villain and her own hero and she is her very own purpose. I exist for her. She exists because it is her right. I am at her whims, her beautiful caprices, and if she were real I’d be hopelessly, endlessly in love with her. I mean, I think she’s real. I suppose I am in love with her, but it’s just so hard to know, when she comes and goes, when I have to stop loving her all over again.
She always longed to be exquisite, and only recently realized that she can never be marble features set in stone, carved to perfection. She exists in movement, soft to the touch, sunlight dapples skin and skin gives way to red and cheeks and fingers and touch her, touch her. She’s begging to be experienced. Don’t take a fucking picture, it’s a travesty. You can only see that she’s beautiful when she moves and smiles and follows you round like those summer thunderstorms that always seem like a dream.
You’ll love her, I swear. I swear it by all the cattails on the riverbank, counting down the days till you see her again. Oh, the way you’ll love her, it’ll be violent, it will. And you’ll love that too.
I am nobody and I want it I think of her as somebody and it makes too much sense lines sharpened to a blade’s edge somebody means I may have to say her name and summon her into existence think of the madness she harbors when she makes her appearance she hates to cry in front of the masses but she’s stumbling into your arms now is this the face of a woman insane?
her cries echo the sounds of destruction singing violins and the shattering of vases he says “I could never hate you” could she say the same? how she tries, but there she goes again already in the throes of hatred falling out of her like a compulsion threaded by the needle of habit blood trickling down her arm how she despises the worst of it, but this is all she knows
she dances around her room emulating a clumsy ballerina so the spiral downwards looks a little like a plié the yellow leaves stained on the ground by the rain are her only treasure and she’s back to embers
Honestly, I think this is the best you get when it comes to me. She’s got enough energy to fulfill her responsibilities. She gets 8 hours of sleep. She remembers to call her boyfriend. She remembers to eat. She’s so normal it hurts, repeat, repeat, repeat. She’s a sentence with perfect grammar and dated notes on her laptop. She’s blinking the correct number of times per minute. She’s ceased fiddling with her hands. She’s telling jokes that are sweet and innocent and funny nonetheless. She can listen to Tchaikovsky and whatever’s on the radio. She wants to be better, but she’s grateful she’s not worse. She feels loved, for the most part. Sure, sometimes she cries a little when she feels ugly, but that’s normal. That is normal. Is that normal? Well, it’s not for her to know. And this is the only time she’s okay with that. I think…she’s okay with that.
The rest of it belongs with falling stars and nightingales, and palaces shrouded in mist gold specks in her eyes a little sunflower dying mascara in free fall it’s me and I’m small again I always come back to her face painted like a butterfly struggling to tell her that I’ve failed “you still don’t love me?” she asks, her voice trembling through the mirror I want to, I do, I touch a fragile wing
now she’s screaming again fury and rage her only protectors
I AM A WHOLE PERSON I EXIST OUTSIDE OF YOU YOU ARE NOT EVERYTHING I AM EVERYTHING THE THINGS I LOVE ARE EVERYTHING THE THINGS I WANT ARE EVERYTHING THE STARS AND THE SKY AND THE OCEAN AND THE TREES, THEY SPEAK THEY SAY THEY LOVE ME
I guess it ended up being a dream, anyways. She changes by the goddamn minute, sly bastard that she is. She’s supposed to be prose but her baser instincts fall into wretched, shitty poetry. It smells like smoke in the air after the candle’s been blown out.
He said, you seem a bit sad today. I smile, a little sadly. He’s only known me for two weeks, and I’m not sure if it’s untrue to say I’ve been lying all this time. Those two weeks of mania obscure the truth of what I am. Thus far I look like someone people write love letters to. I look like I’d read them and scoff and throw them in a pile along with all my other forgotten fancies. But the truth is, I’m the only one writing love letters and they all come back, stamped over, RETURN TO SENDER I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE. And of course I pretend it doesn’t hurt. And of course it does.
We’re speaking French and I don’t seem to have the words, fuck, I barely have them in the languages I do know. I slide out words like triste and fatiguée and hope he doesn’t trip right over them. I don’t want him to think I’m a sad person, even if it’s a little bit true. He asks if there’s anything he can do for me. He says, pour les semaines sans sourires.
I close my eyes. It sounds about right. There’s no dread when I know what’s coming. There’s only resignation. Sans sourires. It sounds so lovably pathetic, but the truth is it’s what I know. The smile-less weeks and the colorless summers and the merciless winters, they don’t ever change. I just keep on feeling sorry for myself, like always. I just keep on constructing who I think I’m meant to be, asking others what they think. I’ve built myself up through the opinions of others, which is why I’m so easy to defeat. One bad patch spreads like the plague, like a group project soured by a non-cooperative partner. Is it just a fantasy to believe I exist outside what others perceive me to be? Is it ludicrous to hope that someday I won’t need anybody?
I don’t need anything, I tell him. One wobbly baby step after the next. Until the fall.
I run out of words. I lay in bed. 2 hours. 6 hours. 14 hours. The world disappears. 3 days. 5 days. 9 days. I think I cry. I think I dream. I think he says, mi amor, are you okay? I think he worries. I think they all do. But I can’t know for sure. I think I lived a million lives before I woke up. I think the world goes on, but I don’t. I think my love and fear and anxiety and euphoria and hopes and dreams and desires and intricacies are all buried in a place no one will go looking. But I can’t know for sure. 20 hours. 14 days.
And then I see the sun.
And she sees me.
And we go around and around again.
You ever had your heart broken? You ever went through one of those gut-wrenching, think-about-it-every-second-every-day breakups? You ever see something and your heart just drops straight out your stomach and you can’t breathe? You ever cry so hard it just sounds like gasps falling one after the other, a domino effect? Gulps and hiccups competing with brute force? It’s not pretty, is it?
That’s how it feels, every time she leaves me. Come morning the goddess turns to a mortal and it never hurts less. And every time she comes back it’s a knife in the scar, resentment and anger and unfettered lust, open wounds carelessly smeared. I want her like something fierce. But I cannot forgive her for abandoning me, over and over and over again.
I am soft and lovely and ice and deadly. I am red mouth kisses and slaps on the thigh and cold cold feet and shades of navy. I am sweet baby roses and lush orange leaves and bitter envy and burning guilt. I am trying my best yet scared of what I could be. I am sunshine smiles and turning to snow. The moon calls out to the tides but the ocean is still yet to be known.
I am fed by starlight and I starve in the depths.
MICHELLE CAO is a soon-to-be senior at New York University studying Politics, Rights and Development. She hails from the foothills of Virginia, where she developed a love for language and the dreamy romanticism of the forests. She has had a passion for writing since her early days and uses it as a medium to express her complicated relationship with her ever-growing neuroses.
The Inklette team is happy to bring to you our tenth issue featuring, incidentally, ten stellar pieces of visual art, prose and poetry. Our submissions period was a difficult month for many, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the many faultlines, insecurities and disparities it exposed across and within countries, fields and systems. Still, we received hundreds of submissions and had to make the difficult yet creatively satisfying decisions of choosing the most compelling things to share with you all.
It does feel strange, however, to be releasing this issue at the moment. No one shares good news during a funeral. Here, in India, it feels like a second partition has occurred. It feels like a crisis of empathy, compassion, sensitivity, democracy, ethics. It feels like our government is a genocide-machine. Everyday I wake up thinking, reading or watching the news about the migrant crisis, mob lynchings of Dalits and religious minorities, arrests of students and activists, increasing violence against women and children, Islamophobic incidents, whispers from Kashmir, the curbing of dissent and public discourses. How will history remember us? As the people who moved on without mourning? As the people who stood silent and ignorant in the face of violence? I hope not.
Black people in the United States made the choice to come out on the streets once again to riot, to protest. They said ‘Black Lives Matter’ and we sing it after them. This is the anger that needs voice. This is the anger and the hope that I wish my country would come together to echo. I wish we rise up together to say: Dalit Lives Matter. Muslim Lives Matter. Women’s Lives Matter. Queer Lives Matter. Migrant lives matter. They always have. This moment is not more important now more than ever. To believe that is to anchor the voice of the oppressor, the privileged, the silent. I repeat: Black lives, Dalit lives, Muslim lives, Women’s lives, Migrant lives, Queer lives have all always mattered. I don’t believe that art, writing or education is devoid of the violence and oppression we notice around us. If anything, it may have a huge role to play in the creation and spread of it across ages. But today, it’s important for us to ask again: How will history remember us? How do we want it to remember us?
Aamir Aziz, a young Indian poet, wrote a Hindi poem titled ‘सब कुछ याद रखा जाएगा‘ which translates to ‘Everything will be remembered.’ And it will be. Today, Inklette Magazine releases quietly as we sit and act with reflection. We will be learning from our mistakes, taking a moment to mourn and hope, taking a moment to listen so we can proceed in ways that give rise to freedom, equity, equality and voice. The map is yet to be charted, and we are open to being corrected and critiqued. Everything will be remembered.
MARY LOEHR is an undergraduate student living in Colorado. Her greatest passions are creative writing, nature-based education, and local food systems. She finds the deepest happiness in life to be walking in the forest with her dog. She has been published in The Social Justice Review and several local zine publications.
2020 began four days ago, and folks around the world are already eagerly fulfilling their New Year’s Resolutions. The Inklette team came up with three questions to jumpstart thinking about their writing lives in 2020. Take a look through our answers, and come up with your own!
What single piece of work are you most proud of having completed in the last ten years?
Between 2018 and 2019 I finished an Afrofuturist short story in which I explore my own experience as a Black mixed-race woman through the lens of a dark-skinned woman who learns she can swap her skin color with other peoples’. This was an emotionally challenging story to write, but it was also incredibly cathartic.
– Naomi Day, Blog Editor
Small Talk, my most recent poetry collection that came out in 2019 and was published by Writers Workshop India, Kolkata, is the work I am proudest of. It is an intimate poetry collection and, at least for me, a radical labour of self-love and self-care, actually. This is the kind of poetry collection I wanted to write and get published as a child, at the start of the decade I believe. And I have now managed it. It feels beautiful.
-Devanshi Khetarpal, Editor-in-Chief
In 2019 I published Survive July, my first fiction chapbook. The collection of flash, mini plays, search histories, and text messages addresses a young woman’s experiences grappling with mental health, sexuality, and relationships. In addition to working with these complex themes, ensuring each piece in the collection was both self-contained and cohesive with the work as a whole was incredibly challenging and rewarding.
-Sophie Panzer, Prose Editor
I’m most proud of my first poetry collection, Uniform published by Aldrich Press in 2016, because I at first thought I didn’t have the courage to write it. Once the first poem was put to paper, the others gushed out of the dark places they’d been hiding. Since its publication, I’ve made meaningful and lasting relationships with other writers and have found a niche of friends in the military writing community. If Uniform would have never come about, I know the poems of my second collection, Permanent Change of Station published by Middle West Press in 2018, would have never found the page. Uniform has given me the confidence that poetry can come out of the times that seemed that most vacant.
-Lisa Stice, Poetry Editor
What projects do you anticipate starting or finishing in 2020?
I’m currently working on a series of short stories set in a fictional world whose timeline parallels our own. In this world, society runs on creativity. Those who don’t have creative abilities spend their lives trying to awaken it, and those who do have the power to shape the course of their world. I’m exploring different gender rules, familial structures, and styles of discrimination in this space. I’d love to complete rough drafts of at least seven more short stories over the course of the year.
– Naomi Day, Blog Editor
I am not quite sure. I want to finish my translation of Pasolini’s text on India, but I also want to write a series of short stories or a collection of essays on trauma, being an Indian woman in the complexities New York while belonging from a small town, and on running. I don’t know what I will complete this year, but one of them, at the very least, I hope I can get close to finishing.
-Devanshi Khetarpal, Editor-in-Chief
My goal for 2020 is to write more queer fairy tales. My second poetry chapbook, Bone Church, is also pending release with dancing girl press.
-Sophie Panzer, Prose Editor
I have couple manuscripts that I’m continuing to edit and submit and one brand new project that might be a finished (except for more editing) manuscript soon.
-Lisa Stice, Poetry Editor
What is one new thing you are challenging yourself to learn in 2020?
Novel structure! I wrote two full novels when I was a teenager, with no awareness of the pace or framework of my narratives. I want to study what is captivating for readers, what is most often used by “alternative” writers, and what the novels of folks writing from the margins look like from a writers perspective. I plan to do this by reading a lot more books intentionally, looking for the structure and the ways the author stitches their narrative together (rather than just reading for the powerful story!). I’d also love to find some classes that do this.
Also, dialog! I’ve been stepping slowly into it with my short stories, but I tend to avoid it because dialog is hard! Written dialog is not the same as spoken dialog, which makes it even harder. This is a challenge I don’t really know where to start with, so this should be fun.
– Naomi Day, Blog Editor
Dialogues and movie/television scripts, I’d say. I love film and television now, thanks to my boyfriend plus Netflix plus iconic New York city cinemas. I am very much interested in cinema as a visual language, as a language with a unique albeit occasionally unsettling syntax of sound, images and movements. And I always wonder what a film in my vision would be. As a writer, a script for a short or feature film, or even a few television episodes, seems appealing. I would love to write a drama largely between middle-class, urban Indian women in the spaces designated to them even as they are continuously disowned and disregarded by them and in them, or are not fully and equally included in them.
-Devanshi Khetarpal, Editor-in-Chief
I would really like to further develop my humor writing in whatever mediums I can find, including prose, satire, scripts, or stand-up.
-Sophie Panzer, Prose Editor
For 2020, I’m challenging myself to learn crocheting and accordion, and to get my dog and I both out doing scent detection again. I find that challenging myself to do something totally different than anything I’ve ever done before helps me approach familiar tasks with a more open mind. My daughter and I both took a couple crochet classes at a local yarn store while she’s been on winter holiday, and I’ve started a project of making my mom a scarf. My daughter has played button accordion for three years. Over that years, I’ve watched each of her lessons and thought, “Heck, I think I’m going to give it a try.” It’s been really fun (yet difficult). My terrier and I have been missing working as a scent detection team, so I have committed for us to regularly work together in 2020.
-Lisa Stice, Poetry Editor
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It is the holiday season, which means it’s time to visit some bookstores and buy book-gifts for your loved ones. The Inklette team has curated a list of their favorite bookstores across the world. So check these out if you happen to be in any of these cities:
One of my favorite things about McNally is their international fiction section, where they sort different books and/or writers according to the region or country they are from. And unlike other bookstores, the international fiction section is not hidden away in some corner or under some staircase. They also do not use the more hegemonic terminology by labelling them all as “foreign” literature, and make it easier for visitors to see what contemporary fiction currently looks like in different parts of the world. The way they do it almost makes one feel as though it is a love letter to translation and translators as well. The Nolita location is my favorite: it’s cozy with a wonderful cafe, and all their events are free, with cozy seating and give ample opportunities for readers to interact with writers after the event.
From what I recently read online, this bookstore is about to close soon. But my friend and I discovered this bookstore in a rather quiet neighbourhood of Rome. It was small and cozy; Italian was a more recent acquisition for me, and I was living in Italy for months. I discovered a book by Henry James on Washington Square, downtown New York, where I go to school and lived my freshman year, in Italian. And then, of course, I saw Pasolini’s book on India– one I never knew existed in a shelf at the corner. The Traveler’s Bookshop in Rome is not just travel guides and cookbooks, but much more. It’s a bookstore to read about place(s) in a different language of place.
Elliot Bay is an open bookstore with a second, smaller level and a cute little cafe in the back that’s perfect for working (with earphones in – it gets noisy!). My favorite sections are the graphic novels — there are at least three rows near the front of the store — the POC history section on the second floor, and the queer section towards the cafe. It also has an enormous selection of cookbooks and a lovely atmosphere.
Charis is a small feminist-centered bookstore in Decatur, just east of Atlanta. There are always several friendly women there ready to help you find what you’re looking for. They have a small but vibrant queer section, as well as many POC and international authors. I’ve seen books in other languages in several sections of this bookstore, and they highlight books that several book clubs are reading in the front section. They have a larger space in the back of the store where they hold events and author readings.
4418 Park Ave
Wilmington, North Carolina (United States of America)
It’s a bit of a drive for me, but Pomegranate Books is worth it. They have a great poetry section, and they love supporting local authors. Comfy couches and wingback chairs create a place where I feel like I’m right at home. Their coffee shop is also a nice perk; my favorite treat is the coconut milk thai tea. On the second Friday evening of each month, Pom Books hosts an open-mic poetry session. I don’t get to attend the open-mics as much as I like (my husband often trains out of town, and so I have no one to watch my daughter), but the other poets are always kind and welcoming when I do get a chance to join them.
Occupying a corner of a complex composed of a handful of shops in the busy bazaar of Dharampura, Patiala, the bookshop is a flash poem—ending the moment it began. It is December right now, and I realise how far the store lies from the sunrays. This is in contrast to the place from where Ramesh used to sell second-hand books several years back— the staircase right outside his house a couple of metres away in the same bazaar. I don’t know if Ramesh lives in the same house now, or if the house hasn’t been razed. I can’t tell if the switch from an open-air place of business to a nameless cave signifies progress, economic or otherwise. All I am aware is that I owe my introduction to Mario Vargas Llosa and J.M. Coetzee to this dark recess in town.
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