Four | Not Square | A Literary Reading and Virtual Graduate Student Showcase
will take place on Zoom on Thursday April 22, 7-9 pm
Email to receive the link for the Showcase by 11:59 pm on 4/21/21 if at all possible. Late responses may not be received in time for the event, however every effort will be made to admit all who wish to attend.
Ciara Garrett is a poet, fiction writer and playwright. An excerpt from her script Places Yet Unturned will be first on the program.
Pamela Mohar is a creative non-fiction writer and poet. A selection from libretto, a guide will be performed at the Showcase.
John Ballard Pecora’s Memoir/Prose piece Book of Mom will be shared next. The image of the sunflowers represents a favorite painting of John’s mother, to whom the piece is dedicated.
Christina-Marie Sears’s Chapter One from subLIMINAL will finish the Showcase program. This is a speculative manuscript which she hopes will grow up into a novel in the near future.
At the end of the readings, we invite comments, questions and general merry-making from attendees. Opportunities to interact with the artists, in true BathHouse Events fashion, will close this Showcase event.
According to New York Times’ Book reviewer, Ken Kalfus, ” Saturation Project is sometimes elusive, but there’s no meaning in it that gets lost for long. When Hume’s thematic connections and redemptive insights arrive, it’s with the force of a hurricane.”
Christine Hume is an acclaimed poet, essayist and sound poet. Her work, and the range of her work is exceedingly diverse, spanning critical pieces, reviews, sound poems, essays and poetic texts- her skill in all of these forms is certainly impressive. Hume’s voice is well-defined and distinctive. Saturation Project is packed with evocative nuance, sensory detail, philosophical interrogations of selfhood, woman’s identity, and cultural and material practices of generation, survival, and innovation. This writer has had the privilege of study with Prof. Hume for two courses while at EMU’s dynamic Creative Writing Program. In the course, Community Outreach for the Creative Writer, which is a degree requirement, we Graduate Students had the opportunity to soak in Hume’s broad and inclusive ideas about how to sustain a writing practice which includes sociability and interconnection with others. In the incredible Auto-Theory Workshop, we studied such fascinating writers as Saidiya Hartman, Kiese Laymon and Maggie Nelson. The conversations, book discussions and cozy informal lectures, along with Prof. Hume’s incisive and interdisciplinary articulations of literary theory, promoted scholarship and disciplinary knowledge for all the writers. The memories we made in Prof Hume’s classes will impact me always.
Therefore, I am pleased and proud that we had the opportunity to discuss Saturation Project through email interview on February 26th. Without further ado, here are some of the key points of our discussion.
I notice that the prose style in your book is very poetic. It flows smoothly and there’s lots of detail (sonic, visual, proprioceptive) that feels poetic to me. Is this an essential component of lyricism, in your view?
I am fascinated with the sonic magic of language wherever I find it. Sound has privileged access to the nerves; it hits the skin, blood, bones, viscera, subconscious more directly than visual information or maybe any other kind of sensory input. Running our senses over and into language, existing within its rhythms and acoustic structures immerses us in a specialized intelligence. G.M. Hopkins thought that words were alive and sought out like-sounding words in order to enrich and perpetuate them. Their desire for permanence or their insistence on excess was palpable to him. Like Hopkins, I believe the sonic links in words are secret pathways that hold mysterious powers, occult resonances, and understandings we can’t access any other way. There are rhythms that hold everything we know and understand together and others that destroy orthodoxies and conventional thought. Memory, too, has an intense relationship to sound, repetition and rhythm that writing can mine. The sounds of language can lead us in unexpected and previously unknown places.
Do you consider yourself a poet who branches out into memoir and essay writing? Or vice-versa?
It’s a great question, and I just talked about this in a couple other recent interviews, for Pulp, the official blog of the Ann Arbor District Library, and for ZYZZYVA. Luckily, at EMU, the Creative Writing program does not require generic fidelity. We embrace experimental and interdisciplinary approaches to writing! We embrace fluidity among generic (read: gendered) labels!
When you are working with such personal material, how do you cope with difficulties along the way? Do you find your mood is impacted by touching such material, especially when there has been significant trauma behind the events?
One thing that surprised me about the review of Saturation Projectin The New York Times is how focused it was on the trauma and more salacious aspects of the book, which to my mind are integrated into a larger story. It also puzzles me when people use words like “brave” and “courageous” to describe writing about trauma as though a normal person would have the good sense not be traumatized or would hide their trauma, stuff it down into dark “private” places and not publish it. It’s that kind of shame culture that greases the wheels of the traumatizers and locks everyone in their path in a private hell.
How many drafts do your books generally go through before publication?
Countless. I have heard of writers who have a kind of base minimum number of drafts—one I’m thinking of particularly came to my class and talked about the 9th draft as being the crucial one—but the process of revising is not so distinct for me; it’s a constant wash of returning and experimenting. I think counting drafts would be depressing or at the very least a pointless form of accounting and accumulating. One of the reasons that this particular book had so many drafts and versions, that it required a lengthy process, is that I wanted the essays to do something together that they did not do on their own. I talk about this at Hypertext.
Do you have any writing blogs or books about writing essay that you recommend?
I think you learn best by studying the essays you love, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. Three classics that both perform and address ideal conditions for the essay that I love are Emerson’s “The Poet,” Adorno’s “Essay as Form,” and Cixous “The Laugh of the Medusa.” I usually begin my essay class with these along with Montaigne, who coined the term “essay” and brought a rich inner life to an intensely empirical sensibility.
Finally, how long did you work on Saturation Project? Did you have times when it lay dormant?
By far the longest, most radically transforming book I’ve ever worked on. I wrote each chapter as distinct essays, but they longed to be together (see Hopkins above). The process was truly a saturation, where I tried to soak each piece in the language, ideas, images, off-shoots, sounds, and affective states of the others over the course of at least five years. The beginning was much earlier though: Seneca Review published a nascent version of “Ventifacts” in 2011—a full decade before Saturation Project saw the light of day. An interview that accompanied the essay publication shows clearly—though I hadn’t quite realized it at the time—that I was far from done with it. I also had a very extended version of “Atalanta,” which was really two essays—one of which became my chapbook, A Different Shade for Each Person Reading the Story (which I have revised, as part of another manuscript, since the chapbook came out!). I first had to break that piece free from “Atalanta,” a weirdly painful process.
Hello my name is Candace J. Anderson, and I am honored to be featured in the Bathhouse Blog. My family and I live in Ann Arbor, and I have been a teacher at St. Paul Early Childhood Center and Preschool since 2017. I am a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University in my third semester of the Creative Writing Program. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to participate in a wonderful program with professors who have shown me the limitless possibilities in Creative Writing, and have helped me in my continued growth as a writer.
About the Poems
And Still We Wait, and And Still We Wait (Reprise)
These poems were written in response to our current social and political climate within the African-American community that has often transitioned into different forms of enslavement and oppression throughout history. Though these works, I hope to give a reader a glimpse into that systematic oppression.
My goal is to be able to provoke thought, and possibly start new conversations about the work that still needs to be done by all Americans, in our fight for true freedom and equality.
Candace J. Anderson, Poet, February 19, 2021
And Still We Wait
Browbeaten under the festering pustulous sun
wading in the recesses of history expunged a
cerebrally castrated apparition
husk of humanities vermin
hollowed and left to
toiling like a stoic effigy
And still we wait
rebellion cleaving to the western blot
scourged with fire
branded by emaciation
underbudded iniquities putrefied
And still we wait
bifurcating our native tongue
a prosodic dysfunction that leaves
the central binary form scattered to the west impotent
ravaging our idiomatic expressions
casting it into swine
scavenging marrow abrasions
undergirded while birthing your disruptions
And still we wait
binded by covetous
abhorrent reverie slothering
heterogeneity morphing state
dropping into quiet sleep
And still we wait
tongues clucking, clicking
utterances groaned in spirit
the lingual frenulum affixed
singing praises of a
aphasic and depleted
under siege by the harvest
waiting reap a reward is not in or of this life
And still we wait
listening lapping up dry morsels
underseeing the overseer
plucking motes from the eyes of
these man-made God’s while using one hand to
place cotton to balance the scales of justice
with rubbed raw pink fleshy cuticles and wielding a shotgun in the other
We will wait no more
like dogs gnawing on bone
with ulcerated bleeding gums
gritting through sawed down teeth while being
undervalued and desensitized to our own plight an
induced hyperreal simulacrum burdened to break free
And Still We Wait…(Reprise)
And still we wait…
Still, sorrowful, silenced
Souls war down
Heels cracked thorns in feet
Transitioned from one form of captivity to another
Slavery, sharecropping, the new jim crow
Sowing blood soaked seeds
Harvesting on borrowed time
Freedom bathing us in blue
Batons tenderize our meat
Hair conditioned with yolks and scalding coffee
Cleansed with fire hoses and spittle
German Shepherds lapping at our skin
Puffed up lungs exuding chants that
blow out burning crosses
Black leathered gloved hands signaling retreat
Pig squeals through hate sealed eyes
Using mulatove cocktails to illuminate our path as we
cut that mutilated strange fruit from rope dangling on trees
Bodies cured by the sun, charred by blazing gazes
fingers pointed with affixed poses, gleaming smiles
Camera flashes at the pedestrian attractions
Retrieving bloated bodies from rivers
baptized in blood
Rebellion spilling into the streets
Kinky coily crowns that defy gravity stretching towards the sun flow in unison
Fists lacerate the spaces between the wind
Boots March in unison standing face to face with ballistic shields and masked faces
Trudging through chitterlings, malt liquor, and crack
When one undertakes a close reading of Shira Dentz’ fifth full-length book of poetry, the sun a blazing zero, published in 2019 by Dialogos Books and Lavender Ink, many questions emerge.
I was lucky to have an opportunity to attend Dentz’ reading via Zoom, through the auspices of BathHouse Reading and Event Series and the EMU Department of English.
During the reading, which Dentz shared with poet Kathryn Cowles, Dentz read three poems from her book. During the first poem, she employed sensory devices over zoom. Readings during COVID-19 are an unusual sort of animal, with the strong possibility of poetry’s impact dissolving over the micro-fiber optical transportation of text fading through technology and transmission. However, even with the sociability of writing diluted through contemporary presentation strategies, the poetic language, performed by the originator rang through.
I mentioned Dentz’s choice to add an additional sensory device: in true avant-garde fashion, Dentz grasped a sheet of paper and rumpled it in front of the computer camera as she read the opening poem of “Black Flowers” (p. 32) The sound of paper, deconstructed into percussion instrument, enhanced the opening lines of the poem.
“ My bubby a black pump marked with
creases an array of streets, now and then
overlapping. Her name changed, rounded
to Mary. A stew of scribbles. Her pumps,
stretched wide open, excited; black flowers.”
from the poem Black Flowers
On the page, the first stanza is nearly crowded out by a graphic design elements, lines smooth and sloping intersecting with jagged peaks. The thin black lines might have been created by the hand of a very old woman, or a very young child. When my children were young, I respected their writing, and we (together) gave it a special name: “scribble-scrabble.” The image of lines on the page, and the sound of the paper being shuffled and animated by Dentz’s hands gave a perfect multi-sensory impression of “scribble-scrabble.”
What other readers/listeners made of the noise of “scribble-scrabble” over zoom technology is impossible to access without deeper inquiry. However, my inquiry and immediate appreciation of the sound as an aligning symbol, which pointed to the marks Dentz manufactured to accompany her poem seems to be an important chain of events in how the poetic can transcend the page and enter the body of the recipient.Permit me one more note about mark-making and its relation to lived-time: learning to make marks on the page is as foundational, as elemental, as all of the developmental steps of movement. When an infant, especially an infant about which you personally care, your own small child, or perhaps a child with a kinship relationship, attains steps of discovery and self-actuality, those milestones give the day a special marker of particularity. Rolling over, discovering the axial midline of the body is truly a skill to celebrate. For without discovery of the body’s axial mid-line, there will be no crawling, no sitting, no standing, no walking.
Therefore, scribble-scrabble is not a random choice for juxtaposition with the poem Black Flowers. Rather, it is an embodied choice. Whatever we called it, whatever our mothers or fathers responded when they saw it, whether we, as preschool writers were praised for it, or ridiculed for it, scribble-scrabble is the universal mark-making of aging. The infant ages into a toddler, and the mark-making is a beginning step of literary consciousness.
Rosie Stockton, (they/them/theirs) is Alumni from the Creative Writing Program, 2017 who is currently pursuing a PhD at University of California, Los Angeles. They (RS) take a few moments to chat with current blog writer/admin staffer, Christina-Marie Sears (BH). We discuss their work, current practice, and time at Eastern Michigan University. Proudly we share this news:
Rosie Stockton’s recent work: Permanent Volta won the Sawtooth Prize and will be published soon by Nightboat Books.
This conversation began via email and continued with a real-time interview. We had a lovely chat, and hope that you will find this post informative and as enjoyable as our meeting.
BathHouse: What is your daily practice like? Do you write in solitude or do you enjoy a community or peer relationship with other artists?
RS: I write alone and journal alone. But I love writing with other people.
Poetry is grounding and ritualizing for me.
One of my daily rituals is- I get up and I journal. It’s not narrative. Journaling for me is a stream-of -consciousness and image-focused practice. I have a really active dream life and I just wake up and write before I even look at my phone, but of course on some days that doesn’t always work.
BH: The vitality and somatic grounding of your manuscript is so vivid and engrossing. What kind of effect or reaction do you wish to stir in the reader? Or is that not a consideration?
RS: When writing, I’m not thinking about the reader at that moment.” They elaborate, describing some pivotal experiences with Professor Rob Halpern at EMU- Daily practice was kind of drilled into me.
They go on to share that this Poetry manuscript developed out of their Master’s Thesis project, with Carla Harryman, Language Poet and Professor, advising. However, the draft from the thesis was one of four sections of this final manuscript. And RS has made many revisions over the years.
Permanent Volta refers to a kind of eternal revolution.
Towards that end, I wonder:
What can poetry accomplish? What does it do and how does it contribute to literature? To society? To social action?
Poetry is a sensory organ.
RS: Poetry possesses… a different type of knowledge, according to Aimé Césaire, it’s poetic knowledge. The poem knows something that I don’t know. I ask the poem what it needs to teach me.
BH: Do you work with formal structures in poetry? Do sonnet forms and the like impact your work?
RS: I worked (for some time) on the form of the sestina. That was like a machine. The way it churned the language– defamiliarizing it. (Additionally, )
Putting two semantic fields together creates new content and obscures meaning and generates new meaning.
Deeply political and aesthetically innovative, while RS writes alone, she also enjoys community. RS co-facilitated Writers’ Bloc for several seasons. In this program, Professor Halpern and workshop leaders such as Stockton have a close, creative relationship with writers who are incarcerated at Huron Valley Women’s Prison.
RS: In terms of her work with the Huron Valley Writers: this work, writing (in community) tackling prompts with women in the workshop, allowed me to take vocabulary, cogent thoughts, different elements from disparate areas of my life, and create something new.
Additionally, RS notes the importance of non-conscious additions within their poetry. They express interest in accessing latent though and latent feeling. (Deconstruction and alteration) is an important process for my creative thinking.
Breaking sentences allows for new sentences.
Enjoy this excerpt from Rosie Stockton’s Manuscript, Permanent Volta.
Your sestina exceeds the bar and I sip. Windy with adjectives, my view of thunder. In that notebook, what are you writing in that notebook. In the notebook, that book with notes, which order are the words, which words slight the order.
You need a word for waltz, and I said breeze, breeze or slide, march or breeze or slide.
I sip your excess, your sestina in my notebook, the breeze it says be careful, be careful with the sestina, the sestina in your notebook.
Where I wonder and I sip, where you got that sestina, what machine gave you that sestina. You can write a sestina, I demand, you can really write a sestina. In your notebook with thunder, I sip windily. I waltz to think of your order, the words in the notebook, my careful sestina.
Your breeze is marching excess, it is slow and pauseful. Always with the pauses, you are thunder in my bar, and I sip, all excess. All excess and pause. And pause and pause. Be careful says the sestina, marching along, with all that excess in your notebook, with that machine that waltzes on.
No pause for the machine, only windy prediction, be careful of that word, or that order. Excessive sestina, bent over the bar. It is writing, writing thunder and care. I sip excess, I sip carefully, my excess. Windy with order, my excess.”
Rosie Stockton is a poet based in Los Angeles. Their first book, Permanent Volta, is the recipient of the 2019 Sawtooth Prize, and is forthcoming from Nightboat Books in 2021. Their poems have been published by Publication Studio, Monster House Press, Jubilat, Mask Magazine, and WONDER. They received their M.A. in Creative Writing at Eastern Michigan University. They are currently a PhD Student in Gender Studies at UCLA.
Here’s more information on Writers’ Bloc
POETRY FROM INSIDE WOMEN’S HURON VALLEY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
“Since 2011, The Writers’ Bloc has been nourishing personal and collective evolution through the writing and study of poetry inside Women’s Huron Valley Prison in Ypsilanti. Through the study and practice of poetry, the Writers’ Bloc has discovered that we can transform our relations to ourselves, to one another, and to the social conditions of incarceration. If social justice depends on creating new forms of solidarity, then the Writers’ Bloc writes for social justice from behind prison walls, turning otherwise negated forms of social relation into the stuff of living solidarities. In doing so, we make the prison walls porous, while imagining and enacting new horizons of social and political possibility.”
This statement, emailed to Graduate Students as an announcement of EMU Honors College Star Lecture in the fall of 2019, supports and contextualizes Rosie’s interview comments about the individual writer and the community and sociability of poetic writing. At this event, Prof. Halpern presented and discussed the work of The Writers’ Bloc, and included the project’s facilitators and past participants, as well as the voices of poets inside Women’s Huron Valley.
Received by Rob Halpern, TOMORROW! Star Lecture Featuring the Writers’ Bloc at Women’s Huron Valley Prison, 18 Nov. 2019.
Stockton, Rosie, “EXCESS” a poem selected from their book manuscript, Permanent Volta.
The creative pieces by Elizabeth Kulper, Selena Fack, and Drake Nardi were submitted as homework in Creative Writing 335 and Creative Writing 300 classes. They were composed between mid-March and early April, just after classes went on-line. These are spontaneous creative responses to the impact of the virus. I was impressed by the writers’ urgency to respond and the openness of their responses to the troubled moment. They do not hold back on the unsettling aspects of experience as they enlist the imagination to document the suspension of normal life at a moment of emerging crisis.
Carla Harryman, Professor Creative Writing Program
Days Like That by Elizabeth Kuiper
December 7, 2020
You will never find a leatherbound journal filled with the stories of how I saved a child from drowning in a frozen Lake Michigan and then left to climb Mt. Everest the next day, of how I became a doctor at the age of 20 while supporting my unemployed mother, of how I managed to stop World War Zero by writing letters to every government to teach them how to care about the next generation who they see as lazy, of how I created a vaccine for the incurable. We reserve cowhides for the Gods and Goddesses and the few unlucky mortals who “live in interesting times” and make the world boring again, writers and their peace treaties, lawmakers giving in to protests, doctors defying death. But not everyone who lives in interesting times deserves leather.
Give me a torn folder filled with grocery lists, Bar Louie receipts, weekly homework checklists, out of order diary entries, class notes, predictions, movie quotes, and song lyrics written in cursive over and over again tucked in the margins and white space.
I was late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life, but when I die alone, when I die alone, when I die, I’ll be on time.
Ouch. Like the stinging of steel wool, hot water, Dawn dish soap, and flesh, truth hurts. At least, I do not bury it beneath mountains, I dig for it through the stars, cards, tea leaves, and news articles.
November 7, 2020
If you could have one day that exists completely outside of time, meaning you had no obligations like homework, friends, family, work, how would you spend it? It is hard to set relaxation time aside for yourself when you spend that entire time thinking about the things you should be doing. I always thought I would marathon the Harry Potter movies starting at 9am with a cup of coffee and ending at 3am with an empty bottle of wine. Sarah would read the last hundred pages of the book she has been working on for a month. Jo would make vegetable soup and gluten-free bread for herself. Ryan would play World of Warcraft until he won or whatever the equivalent of winning is in that game. Ed would play with his cat, Cassidy, until she became annoyed with him and hid under the couch. Mom would clean the house. Dad would do yardwork.
I wonder if I will experience that in the next couple of weeks.
November 10, 2020
Within the moment it takes to cough, I decided not to go swing dancing. No new blue-striped dress, no eyeliner, no heels, no wings, no fairy lights, no gangsters (I would give anything to see gangsters hanging out with fairies), no Matt, no Henry, no choices. My mother would say that being unable to choose right now is a good thing and that choosing Matt or Henry is the wrong decision and that I should wait until after college to date. I would disagree, but I guess it doesn’t matter unless I randomly text Henry tonight and ask him to love me.
I’m kidding. Of course, in case future me is able to reread this, do not text Henry and ask him that. Do not text Henry under any circumstance not even if you are on the Titanic or chained to a hospital bed. Don’t do it! Because once you do, you will survive and must eventually face the embarrassment unless you fake your own death which might be relatively easy right now. Maybe you should text him when you’re in danger. The Gods and Goddesses will want to see you live long enough so they can laugh at your terrible decisions they placed before you.
Just kidding. Mortals are entertaining enough without adding myself into the mix. Maybe I should choose neither. Well, it’s not like I’ll be there tonight. Maybe I’ll take a bath and then the whole apartment will smell like geranium instead of the weed coming up through the vents from the downstairs neighbors. I wonder if they are mindful enough to worry right now or if they have reached peace in their brains.
November 12, 2020 9:20am
Sunday tarot reading. Outcome: Death. 3pm
“When tarot was born in the 1400s, vaccines, antibiotics, and pasteurization had not yet been invented. Diseases we now consider harmless led easily to death. And so this card appearing back then truly heralded somebody’s demise.”
No immunity. Yet.
Bar of Lindt chocolate
Package of tofu
2 one pound bars of chocolate (Trader Joe’s)
3 packages of tofu
November 12 Homework
Tuesday: Read article and start on Ethnography
Thursday: Finish drafting Ethnography
Monday: Read all of Mean
Topics for BIO Paper on Food and Culture
Could talk about the aging process
Banned in public areas for strong smell
How it became a staple
IMPORTANT: DO NOT FORGET TO CALL MEIJER ON MONDAY (Can work 23rd-2nd from 8am to 12am).
ALSO IMPORTANT: Therapy on Tuesday at 11.
ALSO ALSO IMPORTANT: Call Dad back
I was late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life, but when I die alone, when I die alone, when I die I’ll be on time.
November 13, 2020
Today, I will marathon Harry Potter surrounded by lavender candles and coffee and ignore my phone. One day without expectations or homework. I wonder if my parents or my brother have started their fourteen days yet. Tomorrow, I will know.
November 14, 2020
Research and write my entire paper because even though the parking lots are filled with cars, but have not a person in sight and the bars are closed. The brain does not have a “Closed” sign. So today, I will write and read and write some more.
November 15, 2020
I wonder if my mother knows that I curse the people that come into Party City and yell at her, and I wonder if she would approve. I wonder if she knows that I pray for her and my father’s safety. She would not approve because unlike her and my father, I do not care which God or Goddess hears me so long one of them listens and protects, and if that damns me to a Christian hell for eternity, so be it.
Sometimes I wish I was as strong as my words spoken (or written) with the force of a bowling ball, but it is difficult to be a bowling ball when I have only ever been a pillow. Nice. Soft. I do not know how to turn a pillow into a bowling ball, especially when I want to be both or when I am so tired and never want to be a bowling ball again. Bowling balls have to have so much force, weight, strength and all I want is to be the pillow someone dreams on, drools on, leans on.
Besides, the bowling alleys are shut down and my bed is right here even if it is empty and I am both the pillow and the someone. Goodnight.
November 16, 2020
Heavy handshakes dislodge weapons, show fellow knights that you will not draw a weapon against them, carvings of handshakes on gravestones depict final farewells before leaving for the Underworld. How fitting. The handshake, a gravemarker. When did a handshake become the reason for a new generation of government officials?
You can tell a lot about a person by their handshake.
There will be feasting and dancing in Jerusalem next year, I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me.
–The Mountain Goats
November 17, 2020
Do you want to hear about my rainy days, wintery days where I slept til midafternoon and wake up in the dark, where I made lunch and dinner and dinner and folded my clothes and did my dishes, and did not step beyond the curtain leading downstairs, but danced around my room to avoid muscular dystrophy? Dance, dance da da da da, Fall Out Boy? Dancing on my own. Dance me to the end of love. Dance with somebody, but not anybody. Dance til you drop dead. Gorgeous.
Do you want to hear about my red lipstick days where I put on makeup to feel better, but I still cannot hide my frown lines and furrowed eyebrows so I grow my hair out and wrap it around my face until I fall asleep?
Have you ever had days like that? No? You will.
November 26, 2020
Phone rings and rings and rings and never leaves its cord. Voices marred by technology. Remember when voices traveled through the air? When you could feel someone’s laughter through their vibrations, their nervous breath through the six inches between you, when you could mumble and still understand people?
Germaphobe by Drake Nardi
I heard coronavirus has the world in mass hysteria. I watch silently as everything around me closes down: universities, businesses, concerts, sports events, parties. Societies across the board take extreme measures of precaution. Someone posts on Twitter that a college professor had placed students’ assignments into a microwave to make sure that if there was any sort of virus on them, the heat would kill it. The papers burst into flames. Someone posts on Facebook that they got fired after sneezing at their place of work. Someone posts on Snapchat that their high school’s senior prom had been canceled. Supermarket shelves have now been stripped naked as people stock up on food and toilet paper in preparation for self-seclusion. Society forgets that sickness lurks within all of us, that we carry our own diseases that are far more transmittable.
I heard that in the midst of all this, xenophobia still continues to be infectious in the United States. The president refers to the virus as “the Chinese virus” on live television, for the third day in a row. His concern of being called a “racist” continues to greatly overpower his concern for the growing number of people in America affected by this. A Fox News anchor demands that the country of China issue an apology. A video of an Asian-American student being beaten by classmates surfaces on Twitter. People sneer as they let subtly racist parodies bounce from tongue to tongue. The fury of the American people grows with each day of quarantine. People lose jobs, businesses shut down, the stock market continues to crash and the government anxiously pumps trillions of dollars into the country’s economy to keep it alive. Cities and counties go on complete lockdown as the death toll teaches the ten-thousands. In the midst of all the chaos and fear, I try to bring myself back to just a few weeks ago, when everything was normal, when everything was alright.
I heard coronavirus has been forcing people to quarantine themselves, and it reminded me of that night we drank from them solo cups. The frat house that now is only occupied by those living in it was once a shell of walls shaking from trap music and crossfaded conversations. I remember the moment my inebriation became intoxication. It was the same moment I noticed that you were in attendance. You came up to me, joking about how I was falling asleep as I half-consciously rested my body against a corner. That corner held me captive for most of the night until I was drunk enough to have the courage to approach you. For six months, I had been socially distanced, completely detached from any emotions. I felt as if my inability to feel granted me immunity, but as I lost myself in the whites of your eyes, I began to experience symptoms. My throat grew tight as I opened my mouth to speak with you, coughing out what little phonemes were able to escape my vocal cords. My lips trembled as I fought back every urge to try and kiss you, in fears that you would retaliate. If that had happened, I would have regretted leaving that corner.
I heard that for every 10 seconds of kissing, 80 billion molecules of bacteria are transferred. At the end of that night, I had wondered how dirty my mouth was. As hands made their way to places never explored before, I felt our lips ripple off of one another. I felt a fire inside me that was quickly washed down as you pointed out how my breath smelled bad. I still brush my teeth four times a day. No matter how clean my mouth is, how often I wash my hands, I still grow more and more symptomatic. I never realized how infectious you were, how lethal a kiss could be. As the idea of you and I spread from the corners of my thoughts to pandemonium, I started having daydreams that slowly become feverish. The semester ended early, and the longer we spend apart, the more I feel this slipping from my grasp. The idea of us fades more and more and I wonder of fever dreams and delusion. After ejecting myself from emotional quarantine, I am put right back into another type of seclusion. I am reminded of past sicknesses that once or twice swept the nation.
I heard that the swine flu pandemic only has estimations in terms of the total number of cases. In 2009, I was only in the fourth grade, virtually fearless with my immunity proving strong and my invincibility complex still present. In my nine-year-old world, I never would have sensed that danger was lurking. Between April 2009 and April 2010, the CDC estimates that up to 89 million Americans were infected. I remember still attending school as usual. I never would have suspected that a more deadly sickness would return a decade later, only for me to fear for my safety. I would love to have the security I had at nine years old. Through the years, I have become more aware of my surroundings, as my anxiety keeps me from distraction. My immune system has significantly become more compromised. I also worry for you, as I remember you telling me that you often feel sick for weeks on end. In my nine-year-old world, never would have suspected that I would find myself in selfless emotions, as I try to offer any kind of protection I can for you. I never suspected that I would be afraid to be close to someone, just to conquer that fear and get pulled away from them.
I heard that the AIDS epidemic has killed over 10 million people in the United States. It reminded me of the night you asked me why I was afraid for people to know about us. You asked if I was afraid of people knowing I was gay, but I wish I could have told you that I was just afraid of catching something. I wish I could have told you how sick I’ve been made before you. I’ve let people with ill-intentions attack my trust until it was no longer healthy enough to fight back. After being tested positive for a broken heart, I abruptly remembered hearing about a woman whose cause of death was a broken heart. I’ve spent summers self-secluded in fear that the next heartbreak would be the last. You told me you were HIV tested last week and the results came back negative. With our skin pressed against each other’s, I forget about my germaphobia. I allow you to touch me in whichever way gives you pleasure. As you make your way into my soul and I realize I’m catching feelings.
I heard that we must love ourselves before we are able to love others. It reminded me of the days and nights I’ve spent searching for someone to cure me rather than taking precautions to protect myself. I wanted to have a relationship that didn’t make me feel sick in the end, like parts of me were attacked from the inside out and rendering me weak as I fight it off. In you, I realized that I needed to stop thinking that I was a host of emotions, bound to flare up and become explosive. I realized that I needed to stop isolating myself in fear of becoming attached. I needed to stop trying to find myself in everyone else but myself.
I realized I needed to find myself before allowing someone else to become a part of me.
Ghosts of a Pandemicby Selena Fack
We won’t close down says my business professor
We’ll be closed by Thursday says my economics professor
We don’t need to worry I tell myself
The internet a beautiful thing a sharing thing a dreadful thing a thing that you have to distance yourself from to stay sane yet a thing you have to keep close enough to survive
The internet is a living paradox and so is humanity
It is half-way across the world I tell myself
People are dying but I don’t know these people so it’s just news to be briefly mentioned at dinner and with friends
But then my mother tells me her coworker’s brother is over there. He talks of the government locking people in their homes to stop the spread of it. More like to leave them to die
He talks of how they run away to Thailand
It sounds like something in history books
Like a dictator or war that people are running away from
Not an invisible microscopic ghost
Seattle and then D.C.
New York and then Dallas
and then Oakland county and MSU closes and are we next?
We are. Online classes for college they say. Classmates smile because they think this will be easier than in person. I know better.
Sports seasons are cut and Olympics postponed
All but essential stores are closing
I talk with a friend on the phone and we question what caused it. The outbreak. COVID-19
They’re saying it started in the exotic animals being eaten
Maybe the government wanted to use it as an assassin to thin out the population?
A terrorist attack? We both wonder
I am living in a dystopian novel
That is the only explanation
The world has literally shut down due to a global pandemic
I stay in the house for 12 days only going out to run and walk the dogs
On the 13th day I help my mother go grocery shopping and I have never been so terrified of breathing in the air in my entire life
I see a man wearing what my mother tells me is a painter’s mask
It looks like a mask one would wear to avoid toxic waste
Is that what we all are? I think so because I feel my body turn to sludge and see green ooze seeping out of my fingertips
The people I manage to make eye contact with look like they want to murder me
Their eyes are knives and I can feel them slice me in half just for existing
This is what paranoia must feel like
COVID-19 a ghost an invisible killer a thing like the internet many can’t see it but know that it holds a power that can kill and omnipresent like God it is everywhere closing in
Social distancing is the solution we are told and again most classmates rejoice
For not having to leave their beds for lecture halls
But my friends know better my friends like me
Those who aren’t lovers with the quiet
Those who fear it
This isolation is a ghost that manifests into flesh only to wrap its fingers around my throat
I can’t breathe. I’m not hyperventilating, just empty
Staring at a blank wall trying to wish sleep into existence
The quiet has never been my friend
It feeds my anxiety and they both pick the sanity off of my bones piece by piece
Writing has always helped me keep the quiet at bay but my arms are too heavy to hold a pen
Writing helps me remember what anxiety tries to rob me of
Writing holds power and gives me control control that I now desperately need
But I cannot reach
The quiet is an invisible like the internet like God like COVID-19 like anxiety like ghosts
Am I a ghost?
No I can’t be, the ticking reminds me.
The tick of the clock the tick of my own heartbeat in my ear the tick tick tick tick tick
that doesn’t stop that tells me to keep going down a spiral like a never-ending water slide
But this isn’t fun
Ticking like a bomb
of paranoia and white noise and ghosts and thoughts and quiet
Ticking like an icepick hitting its mark
That’s what the victims said of the ghost
That it takes an icepick to your lungs and drains the life out of you as easily as a needle drawing out blood.
Joel Miller reads two sections, which he hasn’t shared with his class yet, from his Capstone Project, Anxious and Autistic. In his own words: “I’m a creative writing major, with a film minor, and as you can guess, I’m on the spectrum. After college, I want to start writing a young adult series.”
Title of Capstone: The Blacker the Berry the Deeper Her Blues
Tatiaira Herndon is currently completing her final credit at Eastern Michigan, and will graduate with a major in creative writing and a minor in communications. In her own words: “For my Capstone Project, The Blacker the Berry the Deeper Her Blues, I have created a series of structureless poetry that addresses the issues surrounding and experiences of the black woman. It is a rather personal piece, however, I plan to further develop my work after graduating and incorporate the voices of other black women. I plan to eventually have this piece published in hard copy and electronically. My post-graduation plans mostly consist of getting my voice out there and pursuing a career that pertains to my major.”
Experience Tatiaira’s piece The Blacker the Berry the Deeper Her Blues Here: Part One and Part Two