Waves

Waves crashing on the shore
sweeping away the sand.
Wind rushing through the trees,
taking the leaves that cling to the branches.
Waves crashing, wind rushing,
and there you stand amid the chaos.
A piece of you longs to reach out,
to stop the torment.
Another piece knows
you would be swept away
by the waves,
with the leaves and sand.
You once swam the waters
that crash at the mercy of the wind.
But you found the rock
that the wind touches,
but never moves.

Submitted by Thamer Linklater.


Thamer Linklater is a Cree artist from Northern Manitoba. She is a survivor of the Millennial Scoop and works to spread awareness about Indigenous issues. She is currently working on earning her masters at Trent University. In her downtime she enjoys singing, dancing, writing, and painting. 

Playlist

It’ll All Work Out

As I stepped out into the dark night,
the cold air drew my warm blood to the surface.
The clovers under my feet bent their stems temporarily
to bear my weight.

As frozen droplets of mist melted under my toes,
thousands of piercing diamond eyes peered at me through the black sky,
winking occasionally.

A deep breath in and a sigh of beauty exhaled.

I scanned the sky for the big dipper:
That giant spoon that is always trying to scoop up the north star.
Although he will never catch her,
he does help those less celestial beings locate that
always steady glowing presence.

And tonight,
they gave me my sense of direction.

As I my eyes traced from the dipper’s edge
straight to the north star,
I turned and began my journey.

Sorry or Please

My feet landed at a steady pace
to the beat of an imaginary drum.

The wind whipped through the trees,
whistling through the puckered leaves,
and crickets rubbed their wings to sing.

The night was playing its daily soundtrack.
The one mockingbird, getting to an early start,
was the star of the show.

As I took long strides, my hips swayed from side to side.
I warmed up as I walked
further and further away.
The circulation in my body flowed faster,
keeping up with my pace.

What began as a slow walk, crescendoed to a swift walk.
And then the swift walk took off
into a sprint. Soon,
I was running as fast as I could.

But the Regrets Are Killing Me

Tears streamed from my eyes and streaked the side of my face.
Some flew off, while others made their way
into the crevices of my ears and into the abyss
of my black hair.

What was I running from?
From my thoughts?
From Death?
From Life?

Dirt collected in my toes,
huddled with broken pieces of various flora.

Mixed emotions filled my mind.
Fragments of memories every time I closed my eyes to wipe the tears.

My heart pounded and my breath was heavy,
but I kept running.

The north star had given me a sense of geographical direction, but why couldn’t she direct my mind?
Go North thoughts!
Head towards a better place.

Or maybe it’s West?
Just go in some linear direction!
Just move away from this!

We Would Fall Against the Tide

And then I stopped.
My body could take no more.
Out of breath, I hunched over,
and my arms used my legs as support.

Now my eyes were pointed down at the ground
at my soiled feet.

My tears went strait to the earth.
I could not stop.
I continuously produced several drops of rain
for select square inches of grass.

My legs eventually billowed,
and I was soon on the cold ground.
The blades welcomed my skin with soft,
chilling touches,
while other weeds annoyingly poked at me,
trying as hard as they could to get me
to stand up.

But I was not moving.

Hopeless and confused,
I curled into myself.

Eventually, I ran out of tears.
The breathing calmed,
my heart slowed,
and all that was left
was a quite quivering of my lips:
from the cold or from the crying?
who could tell.

And there,
somewhere closer to the north pole,
balled up
with eyes swollen from the thousand of saline tears that had forced themselves out,
then and there…
I fell asleep accepting.

Submitted by Katherine Nawilis

puppeteer

I sit on the couch and outside
the thunder booms as loud as
the voice you raise to
tell me right from wrong

a flash of light,
for a second I can see
we could set the world on fire
if only we tried harder

glass and wood protect me from
the flooding outside my door
I want to swim in it
I want to dive headfirst

but you stop me, tugging on
the rope that loops through my ribs
blush pink cheeks and a frozen smile
limbs jerk as you pull

let me jump into the deep end,
please, I promise I can swim
or maybe stay afloat

but if I sink
no one would see
the water fill my throat

fairy tales

it’s funny how memory works
like watercolor on paper,
colors bleeding together.
Red and blue make purple,
right?

how do you explain
that you don’t remember your father’s face?
Thank god for photographs,
for a love I can pass off as my own

I’ve spent my whole life clinging
to Sunday afternoons
to bookstores and grassy parks
to climbing trees while you stand underneath
to Tigger, the 30-pound cat
(but really, can a cat even be that fat?)

was any of it real?
Maybe in my mind
Maybe only in my mind

tiki dancing, a glint of gold in your eyes
flames so bright they light the world on fire
It’s dark as night
but I can barely see the stars

some days I wake up
convinced that none of it was real
but maybe that’s a childhood
writing stories in blood

daydreaming
of the days I felt
loved

Published in Edition 3 of The Dilettante.

Saudade

i suppose some may say
blessed are those who die in the light
tiny beady eyes wide open
facing the heavens above
pick me! pick me!

they hark with their eager beaks
as slimy tendrils of starch slip down mine
pooling in a vat of acid in my belly
the scent of aged tomato sauce makes me flinch.

i will it to stay down
fighting against my own nature
as my stomach revolts
and burns my esophagus on the way up
returning the mass in thick chunks to where it began:
a black plastic dish, greasy with sedentary oils.

half-masticated and syrupy in bile
angel hair strands swim in the regurge
the soupy mess stares back at me
as if it knows its metallic taste still lingers on my taste buds

i want to disappear into the chair cushion
where his penetrating eyes can’t find me
but my hugeness screams
pick me! pick me!

and he harks through clenched teeth
waste! waste!
steering my emesis back toward my fixed lips
where upon my upper lip
sweat meets snot meets rancid smears
in a terrible medley

and tears slip out the corners of my eyes
and the stench of tomato makes me gag
but he pries my mouth apart with metal twines
flooding my senses with the acrid vile

and i think to myself
waste! waste!
find it unbearable to lift my arms up
with eyes wide open
to the heavens above
begging
pick me. pick me.

Published in Edition 3 of The Dilettante.

Alternate Universe in which I Grow Up in a Small Town

My bones stay still when a man offers me the passenger’s seat of his truck; I accept and I am not even surprised when he brings me there safely, spilling details of my father’s elementary school bowl cut.

My breath stays level when the boy in my bedroom offers me the words “lovely” and “enough.” I accept those too, without crosschecking against white scars that mark each inch of my limbs.

Correction: I do not have scars. The basketball court gave me one across my knee once, but it healed. The blood creeped down my leg and I cried at the sight; the drop that stained the fog-colored pavement reminded me to be more careful. In the alternate universe, I never wish to see myself bleed.

The schoolhouse is built of red brick and no one is afraid that it will fall down with a tiny shift of tectonic plates. We open the bar-less windows in my house when we cook on Thanksgiving. Everything smells like sweet potatoes and tastes like vanilla ice cream. It doesn’t matter if I forget my house key because we have weak locks and I keep a bobby pin clipped to the pocket of my blue jeans.

People have faith in God and other uncertain things, like soulmates or their children.

I fall into the habit of loving puppies and girls with bleached hair without fear of their bite. I learn the word “slut” over popcorn and soda instead of over an empty stomach and a classroom desk. One matinee and one late-night show, a PG-13 film, a drought for bad dreams.

The train tracks are lined with sunflowers instead of suicides and all of my classmates live to graduate high school. We have to be home by dinner.

In my real universe, the small town sits in the bowl of my stomach, carrying borrowed nostalgia up and down five-lane roads, bearing the weight of all these overdue memories.

you told me not to burn my bridges

tell me about how
you pulled bodies from the lake:
faces thinly veiled
by a sheet of oblivion,
eyes clouded over
with the image of lost desires,
clothes floating in the still water

tell me about how
you dried each one,
took them into your home and
sat by the fire to warm the
ever-present chill in their bones
their hair dried and their hands warmed,
but their blank stares remained

tell me about how
you surround yourself with corpses of your past:
your drowned dog, your last boyfriend,
your dead father
immersed in memories, you remain
trapped in time, every passing day more difficult
terrified of forgetting, you remain

trees grow and flowers bloom,
but only when they fall to the ground
and begin to rot
do you see them

Published in Edition 2 of The Dilettante.

Refinding Voice

The bright California sun burns the space between where your
knotted hair scratches the side of your cheeks:
sweating tears.
Your throat silently screams for water, but your
parched lips have grown shut from mornings
just like this,
where his preaching plays loudly over sleepy memories of
the dreams you didn’t have time to write down,
and today your lips close like a dam holding back water, pressure building as he tells you not to
speak to him again.

But those lips were not always sewn shut like the bottom of your mother’s jean skirt you tore as
he pulled you over a barbed wire fence.
You came out of her shrieks in bloody sheets,
screaming in a language no one could understand yet.

You grew out of sundresses every month, barefoot under canopies of redwoods,
putting your face against the bark, breathing in pure oxygen.
Your lungs filled with cold, ocean air, so when you spoke,
it sounded like waves crashing, pulling in the body standing before you.

You were forced inland, where you sat in hard, plastic chairs, goosebumps forming beneath your
ironed, uniform skirt,
told to listen under fluorescent lights, breathing in leftover chemicals.
The other girls in ironed skirts reminded you of the pulsing in your throat in shallow
conversations, and you began to look just like them.
Your arms ached from raising your hand as a request to speak, and so the waves that filled your
lungs stopped in your mouth, leaving it salty and dry.

One day a boy looked at you like you spoke in currents again,
and you breathed oxygen straight out of his lungs, full of the smoke of his favorite brand of
cigarettes you promised your mom you’d never smoke and you felt anything but pure.
But you loved like an artist – painting every muse on the edges of your waist and the sides of
your thighs.
He covered every paint stroke with a new uniform that hid the half-moons residing in the borders
of your body which you used to love,
and you grew your knotted hair into two braids for each of the men that still wanted you to be
small.

So now, with the sun beating down on your disheveled braids, tangled after nights of restless
sleep,
you are sweating and crying a whole body of water out of you;
Empty legs in a tattered uniform sprawled on the clean sheets of a silent room.

But with every July sunrise your legs will stretch longer.
fill your body again with water;
and you will start to grow under a new canopy of oak trees that hold you like your mother on
warm afternoons.
Becoming, at first, in spite of him, and then without him,
beginning to paint again, but this time with words meant to send the storm back to sea.
You will fill a windowsill with every small bit of oxygen you can find in a nursery, so there is
growth in every corner of your room, and you breathe again with the tides:
your lips wet with anticipation by the end of August,
seeing before you every sunrise you will watch on an overgrown rooftop,
speaking to those whose words atone the washed-up parts of you,
and let the dam break
over a city who only knows new eyes

because this is the redemption of your voice.

My teacher, Ms. Nola

Her veins are rivers and streetcars,
with their lurching lungs,
wood platted seats covered in the slippery sweat of thighs.
Her song in the night sounds like saxophones,
the drunk mumbles of warm hands on my thighs;
She plays it masterfully;
it croons around the halos of angels on street corners
and tumbles beneath the feet of visitors, moving across a dance floor.
She gave me a tattoo on my left knee cap,
so that Her gravel, Her earth could stay in my skin
when I am no longer curled into Her embrace.

She tries to wash off the stench of booze and cigarettes
alone in the shower,
but they are ingrained in Her skin, in Her alleyways, and in Her hair.
people see Her for Her wild eyes,
The way they shine under moonlight, glow on the riverbed,
for Her shimmering veil of prosperity and recklessness.
they do not see the begging hands sheltered beneath streetlights
and the freeways that slope up and down Her arms.
They call Her whore, She shrugs.
How can She take offense
When She is sinking,
Her people drowning,
Her struggles masked by drunken grins?
when the shinning beads have lost their glamour
and start to knot around Her neck-
how could She be selfish in a time like this?

She cannot wipe the water from the cheeks of Her kin
when they cry for reprieve from the storm,
unrelenting for thirteen years-
She cannot look them in the eye and tell them
it will be better.
Her roads are compromised with greed and empty promises
in which She has no say.
I wish She did; wish She could grab them
by white shirt collars, rip out their cufflinks, and scream.
She is mute.

She has fed me,
taught me and held me captive beneath the expansive branches
of Her oak trees, smothered in Spanish moss,
but I know She is not my mother.
I know I was not born from the same wellspring,
the same humid haze, as Her people were.
I will never hear the melancholy music
Her children were born with already in their ears.
when She kisses me goodnight,
I pray She can escape Her glittering noose
and run barefoot back into the swamp;
where She comes from,
where She belongs.

Featured in Edition 1 of The Dilettante.

lest I forget

tw: sexual assault

the touch of a man
is a heavy hand
resting on my thigh when I was fourteen
too scared to say no
but should I say no?
shouldn’t I like this?

that’s what the media tells me,
directs me, disrespects me
I was a child then and now I am not, but I still
wear these traumas like a heavy coat in
scorching heat

for a while I think that is
all I am, just
a body
but I am learning and growing
punching and kicking
yelling and screaming
silently
the things that were done to me
were done
to me

I am a person and
this is my body and these are my bones
these are my, my, mine
lift your heavy, dirty hands
from my tender flesh, marred by the
scars that try to conceal the
wounds you have inflicted over all these years
ugly reminders of what it is to be
a woman

I am not yours to have, to keep,
to conquer
I am mine and mine alone
despite the sins that have settled into my bones

Featured in Edition 1 of The Dilettante.