I. “Why I Write”
IV. “But You Made Me This Way”
V. “An Empty House”
VI. “Of Family”
I. Why I Write
Writing has always been my way of coping with the world around me. When I feel something, I pull up my Notes application and write as much as I can manage coherently. But, I have kept these writings to myself. In my published writing, I have always limited myself to comfortable topics, which often means other people’s experiences and feelings. I want to challenge that. In fear of people actually knowing my opinions, I have always kept them to myself. This is ironic because I usually admire authors whose work is rooted in authenticity and honesty, so I have decided to try to honor that in my work moving forward.
The first step was to approach my writing from a vulnerable standpoint. I wanted to write about the experiences this past year that had made me the most uncomfortable and still felt raw. It was important for me to write about these situations because it allowed me to confront them and explore new topics. The second step was to incorporate my Notes. In the following poems and stories, there are fragments of Notes from where I drew inspiration. I was influenced to start incorporating some of these raw thoughts into my work when I read Catherine Lacey for a class. Though she is not my favorite author, I am really impressed by the raw emotion she captures in her work. During quarantine, I was also inspired by a book I read, “Normal People” by Sally Rooney. In the book, her descriptions of intimacy between the two main characters made me consider how I can portray intimacy inspired by my previous relationships. These two authors really grounded me on the journey I went on in my writing and provided me inspiration when I was severely lacking some.
This work aims at capturing my emotional state during a weird period of my life. In the past year, I found myself dealing with feelings of inadequacy in both my romantic life and my family life. Not only did I not feel like I am enough for other people, but I didn’t feel enough for myself. I imagine many people feel this way during transitional periods of their life. I was really driven by these emotions when writing this collection because I wanted to finally confront it. I wanted to understand the times where I felt like I could not compare to someone else or that I wasn’t worth fighting for.
i kissed my world
and i told him
forgetting our lovers or children
what i want is to be held by my world
i know if I can’t have what I want
i want it more
i climb, struggle, fight
i reach my understanding world
and squeeze him
A hand presses against my thigh
Begging- to go higher
tell me a story
when she broke your heart
Even though you gave everything
you were still
Fighting till your knuckles bled
but soon you were forgotten
Gone for a while
but I was still painfully aware
Hearts pounding, your breathing
a rough staccato
“I want you,” you say
Just barely a stutter
Kiss me, Kiss me
Love me, Love me
Not her, never her
Open your eyes
Please see me
Quiet except for
the rustle of clothes
Regret, so heavy, screaming at you
filling the space between
Veiled in each murmur, each touch, each kiss
Where you picture your
X, leaving me thinking
Yearning to be enough
Zelotypia- excessive jealous
IV. But You Made Me This Way
The match is burning and I can’t stop it
Orange embers paint shadowy figures of the dark
Gray tendrils fight to rise against the sky
You caress my palm against the heat
Dark figures shadows orange embers
There’s intimacy in that
You force my palm against the heat
One finger at a time, you mold me in your image
Where is the intimacy in that?
In creating a monster out of a woman
You molded me in your violent image
And cursed the burns inflicted
In creating a phoenix out of a woman
Gray tendrils overcome the sky
And embrace the burns inflicted
The match is burnt and I-
V. An Empty House
This house is not a home. Walls peeling, a bucket of paint primer left to its own devices, half-written plans scattered across the floor drift with the wind from the half-open window and it’s all empty
This house is not their home. Rats eat at the peeling walls, paint primer opens on its side, the wind pushes the solution to slowly cover the half-written plans as the bucket is almost empty
This house is no longer a home. Vines grow with its age, covering rat eaten wallpaper, the floor decorated with rat prints and paint and yellowing half-written plans that don’t make it look empty
This house is our home. Wallpaper lovingly placed against paint primer, a bucket of paint, which acts as a stool as our son writes the plans for his room that was once empty
VI. Of Family
Vivid color encompasses the darkened landscape. Green sways, fighting to stand strong against the wind. A gentle rustle whispers among the plants that create the softest sound. In the mountains, there is no light pollution, no smog, no noise. There is nothing except for this and the soft breaths of a family gazing up. The dark blue sea in the sky is endless, where little islands shine in a kaleidoscope of light. Once the eye has adjusted to the dark, four figures become distinct.
“This was the same place your grandfather decided to leave the island. He saw the stars and knew there was a life for his future beyond this pueblo. La familia regalaron todo a él. Y él regaló su vida por nosotros.”
Father is tall, a formidable figure that lacks fear and affection, but whenever he talks about his own father, there is a certain kindness to his voice that he lacks when speaking to his three children. The eldest, Hermana, listens attentively. Her gangly limbs hang disproportionately to one another, having hit that awkward period of growth where she is in constant flux. She repeats her father’s Spanish in her head, rolling the words around, willing them to make sense.
“Dad, what does regalo mean?”
Her face burns, flooding with shame. She should know this.
“His family gave him their entire savings. Every single one of them sacrificed what they had earned for him to build a future for everyone. Abuelito had to take their gift and leave them for the future. He didn’t stop when he missed his home. He didn’t stop when home missed him. He didn’t stop when his father died. He stopped once he succeeded. He ran back home to what was left of his family and gave them the future he had fought for.”
“Papi, he hit me!”
The littlest one, Chiquita, clutches her arm in pain, a big tear trickling down her cheek. She shoves the slightly taller boy beside her. Hermano yelps, echoing across the green. Their father continues to look at the stars.
She is no longer an imbalance of limbs. As years pass, the awkwardness of Hermana’s youth shaped itself into a reflection of her grandmother. She sees her grandmother’s hair in the mirror as she brushes out her own thick, curly hair into flat, black terrain. This was her first day of graduate school, another step on her path to her own individual success. On her own. Not on the back of her grandfather’s legacy but of her own work. Of her own effort. She reminds herself of this as she walks into her first classroom. Especially when she tells her students a fake last name, denying her family in the process. The same feeling she had on that starry night blossoms fiercely within her, flushing her face with shame.
Tears swell in her eyes as she inhales. Chiquita is spellbound at the colors around her. Stark red and gold lay flush against the grey concrete. Bodies thrash against the music, which is primarily bass and conversations that turn into a roar.
“It’s beautiful,” she whispers to herself. She’s seeing double as the colors begin to blur into one another. She lays down on the floor. Cool metal presses against her back. There are stars in the industrial ceiling, ones only she can see. She makes out the constellations, reaching out to touch one.
1:39 AM: What r u doing? We talked about this NO more
If she just took another hit, then she could get there, to abuelito’s stars.
1:50 AM: U are wasting ur life away
Burning in her throat, she attempts to get off the club floor. “Great party,” a man in a grey mask says as he passes. She thinks she says thanks before everything grew too hazy and
2:00 AM: This is what ur going to do with what abuelito left u
The light from his Klipsk personal office unit, purchased from IKEA, one in rows and rows of offices. Pain radiates between each knuckle, a familiar feeling of fatigue roots itself within him. Hermano stares at the door, wondering if it is time to go home. His grandfather, in the photo, stares back at him from his desk.
“Why don’t you work harder,” his grandfather’s brown eyes, so similar to his own, mock him. “When I was your age, I had immigrated here with a family of four and worked till the skin on my hands se rompieron y tu quieres ir ahora?” His grandfather’s voice manifested from his own imagination.
“I’m trying,” he responds into the empty air. It would never be enough. The sacrifices that he makes will never be equivalent to his grandfather’s. Despite his hands’ protest, the brother continues to work into the long night.
They never have nights like this anymore. Green encompassed the landscape; the “Variegata” had taken over all the available garden space in Abuelito’s house. On the hill, his home stands far away from the light of the town. The air is different up here. Clean. The siblings exhale. Identical brown eyes search one another for relief. Reuniting is never a simple reflex; sentences start and are left unfinished. Pauses are a near constant. But, despite the difficulty, side by side, they could exist. No thoughts of accomplishment, of work, of legacy, only the warmth of being embraced by family, of acceptance.
MiC Columnist Katherina Andrade-Ozaetta can be reached at email@example.com.