refrain

Jessica said this, about my anaphorafixation:

Also: “anaphora” sounds a bit like a prompt I’ve been toying with lately: “refrain.” Been trying to connect the idea of something you hear repeated in a song that moves you, with the idea of something (or someONE) you keep coming back to.

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I’ve been dreaming lately about somebody I used to know. A boy. An if you love him let him go type of boy. An if you love yourself you’ll let him go type of situation.

There’s such a tension in these dreams. I know the way things unfold; I watch them from the now knowing everything that comes after. In my dreams I choose to stay, to live it out again, to relish it, with and without hope for a different outcome. There’s still all this love, pale upon waking, this longing and misplaced certainty. And there’s the me who is watching the dream and wincing, but who knows that it’ll be okay.

I wrote a poem about it once. It was the first poem I ever wrote after knowing Crystal. I wrote about how I was certain like the sea, how the way I felt about him was like having my feet in wet sand, ankle-deep, being pulled. It was the only time I’d come close, really close, to knowing what it’s like to feel in love.

It seems pretty silly now, honestly. (It seems, sometimes, like the surest thing I’ve ever known.)

I tried to reach out to him recently. I wanted to apologize for something I’d said. I could have said it months ago, and I didn’t. But this situation was my perfection combination of definitions. A refrain, this person I keep coming back to; to refrain, to stop myself, for my own good.

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I met Crystal at an odd, sad moment in both our lives. We were both so young and heartbroken. We’re still pretty young, and we’re probably still heartbroken, sometimes, but it’s a little different now. She would come over to my apartment, a nicer place than I could afford, which was always lit in red and gold even though the walls were stark and bare. We’d drink a giant bottle of wine and scribble things down and cry. Twenty-three is a good time to be that way.

Of course it wasn’t always pretty. There was one time that we drank this awful passion fruit rum another friend had given me as a housewarming gift. I finished most of the bottle and promptly puked it all up from the top of my bed, which was lofted over the sofa. Crystal cleaned it up and made sure I fell asleep and in the morning we ate snowy pastries from the bakery around the corner. It had been there for a hundred-and-three years. It had probably seen generations of hungover girls short on sleep and seeking a sugar high, the only people who could save each other just by letting each other be, and by witnessing each other write it down.

ANAPHORA//FLASH

FullSizeRender (7)Anaphora poem. “An Anaphora is “the repetition of a word or expression several times within a clause or within a paragraph”. In poetry the repetition of the phrase can be just at the beginning of each line, setting the tone as a meditation or a mantra, or it can be utilized more subtlety within the poem. The poem can be free verse or prose style.”

“The term “anaphora” comes from the Greek for ‘a carrying up or back,’ and refers to a type of parallelism created when successive phrases or lines begin with the same words, often resembling a litany.”

When I was a little girl, I had a litany. I had two. The first was, “It’s ok, Seena.” (I called myself Seena.) I would say it whenever I got a shot at the doctor’s office, or whenever I fell down a scraped a knee. It’s okay. It’ll be okay. The other was “Sí se puede.” It’s something my grandfather use to tell me in letters whenever I would write to him to tell him my improbable dreams. It means yes you can.

I’ve been looking up prompts for Saturday’s QWW: Ridgewood Edition. I’ve actually been kind of nervous about it — it’s a little difficult to find good prompts on the internet. There are a lot of silly prompts, a lot of prompts geared toward classrooms. And silliness is great! I’m frequently a silly person. But I don’t want QWW at Topos to feel like a classroom.

One of the prompts I found was to write an anaphora poem. I don’t consider myself a poet. I leave that for the true poet-souls, like my chica Crystal. You can’t help but be a poet if you’re around Crystal.

But I like the word anaphora.

So there’s a prompt for you. Anaphora. Repetition of a word. Give me free verse, or prose, or whatever your heart desires. Sí se puede. Just write it.

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I like picnics. Here’s a picnic basket full of prompts. Some of them I stole from the Internet. Some of them are somewhat silly. Things that teenagers would take and run with — what does the kitchen look like in the creepiest coffee shop in the world? What kind of superpowers would your grandmother have? What would her costume look like? I’m not asking too many big questions. Instead I want you to run with it. Crystal wants you to write on your nerve, and I do too.

I went on a date tonight. I talked to her about that peculiar combination of qualities teenagers tend to have: self-involvement and self-consciousness. I thought about my diaries from when I was a kid, a girl-woman, a being on the threshold between two worlds. I remembered the sheer amount of writing I did. Nothing was off limits. I had a dream journal, a journal for teaching myself Tarot, a journal almost entirely devoted to the sincere belief that I would one day marry Orlando Bloom. It sounds silly. I was aware, at the time, of how incredibly silly it all seemed. I did it anyway.

At some point, I stopped giving myself permission to be silly.

I recently started journaling again. I was surprised at how hard things hit me as I wrote. Things I felt, things I’d dreamed: Finally taking the time to get them out onto paper, to give them weight, to let them be real. A friend of mine said I was doing it backwards — that you should feel the things first, and then get them out there. But I think we give things power when we write them down. We make them real in a way they weren’t real before. Another friend of mine told me she’d given up on writing, “except for journaling.” I told her, girl, that’s not giving up. That’s the realest writing a writer can do.

I’m not asking you to journal. I don’t think I could sit in a coffee shop full of people and journal in a way that feels real and right to me. I just started writing in a new journal, and I’ve promised myself that it’ll never leave my room. I won’t even take it into the kitchen, which is where I do most of my work during the day, and kitchens are frequently the places I am most myself, and most comfortable. But for the Ridgewood section of Queens Writes Weekend, I am asking you to be silly. Give yourself that permission. The thing I love about flash fiction is that it doesn’t give you enough time to second guess yourself. You just go.

FullSizeRender (6)So I’ve filled my picnic basket full of prompts that remind me of that point in my life when I had done the most writing. I dreamed of pirates and elves, of witches and goddesses, of superhero chicks who save the world a lot.

In my picnic basket on Saturday you’ll find Tarot cards, and a deck of unfortunately named playing cards; you’ll find a feather, and pearls, and storytelling dice. We’ll break up the two hours into sections — two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes, etc., and you’ll pick a prompt and just go. Anne Lamott calls them shitty first drafts, and I like that, but we don’t even have to get that far. Just pick a prompt and go.

Sí se puede. #QUEENSWRITES

My “Leaving New York” essay (sort of)

A friend of mine expressed concern yesterday that my going part-time might be a Bad Idea, life-wise. Either way, it’s in the works starting next week, so Good Idea or Bad, it’s happening. I’ve made arrangements for when my lease is up so that I’ll be in a place where my rent (amazingly) will be only $500/month. In order to do this, I’ll be living on Long Island, which is perhaps not ideal, but honestly it’s better than sleeping on the couch in my parents’ apartment. (No offense to my parents at all! They’re super supportive of my writing — they’re actually my first readers for my novel — but for whatever reason, it is almost impossible for me to write at home.)

The friend who I’ll be staying with once my lease is up has deemed the move I’m making “downsizing,” because she is an accountant and also the most grown up person I know. This makes the move seem much more official and much less frivolous. My friend who is concerned for my future/my choices, is concerned because:

  • I’ll be far away from the city, from the people I want to be around and the things I want to do,
  • By being at work only half as much as I am now, I will not be “engaging with the world” as much,
  • No one can write for hours and hours,
  • I will have less pasta/dinero/moo-la/cash/$$$.

Oddly, though, these things (with the exception of the money bullet) are precisely why I’m excited to make this move.

Continue reading My “Leaving New York” essay (sort of)

Sultana’s Dream

‘You need not be afraid of coming across a man here. This is Ladyland, free from sin and harm. Virtue herself reigns here.’

Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain