rooms in purgatory

BURNING HOUSE.

(art: Jennifer Mehigan)

I ask the stranger: has light always

been operatic? We’re standing

knee deep in reeds, lapped in sunrise verging

red and burrow.

He doesn’t know my name

or the sights threading my every bone

but we wait, edge of the pond, & he tells me it began

as a hum

guttural, rising.

It cratered the air & overtook all noise before drifting back

to quake the ground.

The hands followed.

Pair after pair, tearing at earth

dirt breaking as crumb & grass knot

undone. They clawed until clean

of grave & stood, eyes paused in gape.

All wore souvenir t shirts,

promise rings, tennis shoes plump & bright

once more. Their chapped skin,

watery cheeks. He saw it all. Says he can help me

find her. Says –

Now you’re here, you can ice the distance

as honest daughter, something not cavity.

Axe the excuse of your name

‘til it loosens from bone.

I wrap the halves of my unzipped jacket

around my torso.

I cradle myself & sigh –

I made nests of harm. I never stopped. You see,

back then, my heart outran her cries.

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“Sad Twitter”: the Myth of Beautiful Suffering Lives on in Our Tweets

Here is the essay I wrote for UT Austin’s 2018 Trimble Prize for Excellence in Writing. 

ST Image

Try your hand at pinpointing Twitter’s allure as a social media platform, the exact itch that drives its 330 million users to log on each day and scroll once more through their feeds, always in search of something. Maybe it’s connection, the privilege of being able to glance into a snapshot-sized version of someone’s mind and leave feeling as though you’ve struck at their essence. Judging from Twitter’s design, you’re not far off. The instant you tap on an account’s display name, you begin collecting hints, ferreting out who someone could be. The search begins with the framed profile picture, their quippy bios. It’s in looking below the banner, however, that you become submerged in an experience akin to reading shards of a personal diary. Here, you can scroll through a linear history: Personality and mood are branded with time stamps, packaged to us in visuals and thought-bubble sized tweets. A multi-media still life. Only in this gallery, every idea is a commodity promoted through Retweets, with a “follow” being the strongest symbolic gesture of support for a body of thought.

From the outset, Twitter’s layout seems rife with treatment possibilities and support options for those of us battling clinical depression, especially considering the recent explosion of “sad tweets.” Shouldn’t we rejoice when the account @sosadtoday receives over 6,000 likes for tweeting “for the love of god can someone just get me out of my body?” Shouldn’t we feel less alone when we see @uglywolf_, an account dedicated to grunge aesthetics, posting pictures of tragic icons like Kurt Cobain or girls with mascara smeared from crying, amasses over 24,000 followers? I’m sure we would, if these tweets promoted recovery, or if these accounts were in any way dedicated to a non-glamorized depiction of depression in its nuance, its quiet brutality. As it stands, and despite invoking themes of self-pity and loneliness, sad tweets deter Twitter users with depression from seeking help by perpetuating the myth of beautiful suffering. And the chorus of “likes” signal tremors of something more sinister – a gradual re-shaping of depression symptoms themselves.

It should come as no surprise that depression accounts garnering the largest followings are those producing smarmy, melodramatic content as opposed to focusing on the debilitating feelings associated with this mental illness. That idea’s a bit too abysmal, human. Following this logic, it makes sense that the more popular tweets push a palatable, “artistic” image of the depressed as mysterious and possessed of feeling few can understand. This concept isn’t new. From the dawn of novels and cinema, depressed or mentally unstable individuals have often been depicted as objects of fascination for other characters, who take it upon themselves to either romanticize to or fix the afflicted. Sad Twitter buys into this myth by indulging suffering and ideas of darkness. At best, accounts centered on sad talk post black-and-white pictures of the depressed individuals as being isolated, pining for someone to understand their sadness. At worst, they revel in the taboo, tweeting what can be described as nothing less than self-hate, glorifying cutting with no hint at hope. But as much as these tweets are an offshoot of this well- worn cultural trope, they are equal parts a product of the information era.

As any psychologist will tell you, Sad Twitter paints a reductive caricature of clinical depression. Of the nine symptoms cited in the DSM-5, only two cite negative self-talk and suicidal thoughts. The remaining seven deal with depressed moods and the side effects resulting from diminished interest. This is the face of depression as we know it, stripped of the sheen and secrecy. Why, then, are the most popular “depression” tagged tweets centered on self-loathing and isolation? One answer can be found in modern Western culture. With mass exposure to misery and violence, there is an invisible clamor to be recognized as “different,” and popular sad tweets inadvertently capitalize on the shock value innate to self-loathing talk and self-harm practices — a power that simply talking openly about the underlying desperation or blankness no longer possesses. This is not to diminish those who are truly afflicted with these symptoms, but only to point out that these tweets center around an exclusively expressive version of depression that establishes an elusive “sadness” as the illness’ root cause. And based on the sheer number of likes and RTs these tweets receive, this is the face of depression the internet acknowledges.

According to Twitter analytics, 37% of users are between the ages of 18 and 29, while 25% of users fall in the 30-49 age range. Combine this with the fact that The Anxiety and Depression Association of America positions clinical depression as the leading disability for ages 15 to 44. It’s now clear that in the case of a disorder as pervasive as depression, Twitter’s representations will certainty trickle into the perceptions of young, depressed individuals. There are some who may connect with the sadness, finding solace in shared feelings of despair, in the depictions of fellow sufferers as being “apart.” The beautiful suffering lulls them into being complacent with pain; convinced of their feelings and not wanting to lose their insight, they feel no need to heal and they continue to suffer.

There are other Twitter users who are afflicted by MDD – myself included – that feel the thoughts expressed on popular depression accounts do not accurately reflect our experience. We may not be as expressive in our symptoms, or simply do not act out on negative impulses. According to the majority of Twitter, we do not experience depression in the “right” way, and some of us may be driven to take more extreme measures in order to have our emotional distressed acknowledged, whether or not this corresponds with our true feelings.

Although the messages flaunted by Sad Twitter adherents seem melodramatic, and I would concede that the effect of adding a single sad tweet to this deluge is miniscule, we cannot ignore the sheer number of RTs and likes that some particular tweets receive. And in mental illness symptoms, as in democracy, majority rules. This phenomenon is described in Crazy Like Us by Ethan Watters, a book focusing on the influence of Western media on mental illness symptoms worldwide. Watters introduces the idea of a limited “symptom pool,” meaning that if an emotionally distressed person wishes to have their pain addressed in a meaningful way, they will be forced to unconsciously select and embody the symptoms of whichever afflictions are considered by a culture to be a true form of mental illness. These symptoms correspond to reigning psychological theories and popularized depictions of the time.

If Watters’ postulate proves true, then “Sad Twitter,” wild inaccuracies and all, may narrow accepted expressions of depression down to those deemed “beautiful.” And although the criteria of depression may shift from dejection and emptiness to expressions of self-loathing, one constant remains: needless pain. Twitter needs to re-create itself as a community that supports treatment, and although the journey to healing through therapy and self-help is very rarely a pretty one, it certainly has more potential for beauty than suffering.

 

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Apology as time-negating. Apology as limit.

LADY BIRD.jpg

Hey all,

I’ve noticed a pattern in my WordPress activity: I disappear from the site for considerable lengths of time, only to re-emerge at random to post poetry and journaling caked with an unrelated but pretty (and – admittedly –  bordering on pretentious) photograph I grabbed straight from Pinterest. And despite the time between my visits, I always expect a small echo back at me from all of you, my followers.

But this has been my longest hiatus yet. Not only have I felt uninspired to write, I also got swept away in an avalanche of college projects and work-related duties.

So with that out of the way, tonight I’m jazzed up on caffeine, and I finally have something to say.

_______________________________________________________________

This past year was the first time I felt like I stuck my hands through someone’s life, the lives of multiple people I love, and created an irrevocable rift. Something resembling the planet Neptune’s storm, with all its roaring yawn and unreachable blue. When my mind plays over the hurt, there’s a surge within me and I feel that if I strain hard enough, at just the right angle, the whole memory will give and come crashing in on itself. And everything will be as it should be. Okay and still.

This past year was also the first time someone broke my heart, and I experienced the halt and quicksand pull of having having me, my whole life, shut off from someone else’s life. And the feeling of trying to trying to reach out to that person, but also the hopeful-me, the one that now spends eternity under the seams of those short months. As if aching could peel back a phone’s dead-end static, plow straight through and you’d call out to me and I’d be the same all over again, new.

But once I’ve eschewed fantasies of making things right, or having things be made right to me, I always come up wanting to be healed with an apology – unasked for, at once direct and sincere. Or to apologize and have the rift painted over in white. As if past actions could be once again linked to the actor at the altar of this stilted limbo and somehow be absolved.

I’ve found, sadly, that it never works that way. When apologizing or being apologized to, after being washed over in a sense of yes, I’m still left feeling as though I’ve lost an arm or some other part of me. I believe that it’s true that no amount of sorry can seal a gap, once made, but it can act as a balm to the memory of a thing. In short, in instances of collateral-damage, I think apologies immediately snap the dislocation of memory and present-day back into place. The action is defined as a thing both parties would reverse, if they could. An apology, however, does little in the way of healing all of the malformed ideas, the subsequent wounds taken on in the mind of the person hurt. All of the doubts and hatreds and the image from the moment you were hurt.

I don’t know how to heal these things, and a shout of sorry across time seems like waiting to hear an echo from the mouth of space.

 

 

 

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music borrows a body

Jazz Blog Post

Songs that have been lighting me up recently (and loosely inspired me to write this small morsel that began as a reminder/gush of admiration for how modern poetry has taught and is continuing to teach me to throw over my old notions of what *proper* writing is. From there, it sort of devolved into a little rumination on how we experience all life through limits – such as our bodies or really anything that exists in the world – and how even art must obey this creed either through noise or material objects):

“Smoking Section” and “Los Ageless” by St. Vincent 

“Francis Forever” and “Crack Baby” by Mitski 

“Lady Day” by Frank Sinatra 

“I’m So Afraid” by Fleetwood Mac

Simple-Line-Dark-9

But the no rules, the no structure no gimmicks no innovation or uniqueness committed in the *right way*. Freedom. Its clean conic inhale and divine snap. Clean, like dust swept invisible. Perhaps I can now see the page as some writhing globulus deity and not fear its judgement. Like heat waves, mud. The uncertainty, infinite and molten silk, prison wide as me, I now want to see every shape natural and manmade as confinement. Even music, noise, is pitched to us in silicone casing, sound’s crosshatch hairs burning up themselves with fuse-like obedience, how they branch, trailing parts fading proofless, fading until they’ve traveled to and reached that finger-tip needle cell tower, punctum where that last rioting grain of them can still be heard. Extending past themselves to absence. Until they’re through with themselves or the shapes.

Here is what I’m trying to say: I’m no different from them, the notes in a song. My body is filled with color to define my casing, where my lines stop and every space without me in the world starts. My skin, my fizzling constellation web, my atlas perfect of every square inch the world can touch me and I would feel them. And the one-thousand miles twisting rope in me I can’t feel. Terrifyingly foreign. I feel tar rivers braiding, sewing through the reptile gaps to an eyeless rhythm, like the slide of muscles in a body sighing, the rhythm like echoes from the womb. These invaders, no more akin to me than the blind meat-inflated carnivores of the deep-sea are akin to fish. But I accept. All of it. Every bone and arrowhead, crystal and feather,  in this museum. My inventory can be numbered, and I know that number is small, feels like a false narrative. I accept. All the unseen monster fish breathing in me and keeping me alive too. I adopt them and give them names. Because what else in this world can I claim as me other than the body I feel in? I can only ever talk about sight in relation to seeing through my eyes. But without? Can I ever receive something unsealed?

 Imagine a bodiless sight, not of this planet or any, something closer to a galaxy’s yawn, dreams, the steeping kaleidoscope brew appearing only when balled fists press gently on lids. Careful not to fall through that color like infinity. Like never was and never again.

And soon. A day I’ll see unbridled, aidless from light. 

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wisdom teeth

Blog Post - wisdom teeth

Think of a party, everyone shivering in swallowed lamplight or, the music. Thin, unpunctured here. Bodies moving like excuses. This is not yet forgetting, this is only a mouthful of blood. Like a startled wait, this yearn wrung through teeth. Like a muscle unlearning itself in whiplash and the slow leaving too. It is simple: only this waiting-room, feathered march of anesthetics, falling through the hollows of a name.

 

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august

 

//

Brimming with their secrets, the way everything is the answer, opaque and boundless until you split it open and swim inside it. Take refuge, pitch a tent. Drink in until every inch is uncovered, until every breath bruises. It cannot be without limbs to seal it in.

What I want cannot be contained.

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“life rocked me, ultra-softly”

They should love me.
I mean, maybe they do, but I don't even know what it is.
You spend your whole life thinking you're not getting it, people 
aren't giving it to you.
Then you realize they're trying and you don't even know what it is

Mad Men 

In celebration of Lana’s new album dropping, I’ve decided to make a guest appearance on my own blog — I say this because it’s been ages since I’ve glanced around my corner of the web, but now that I have, I felt the site in need of a pretty drastic update, as I had out-grown the moody and, well, let’s just say it, “emo” look of the past era of “Kateri’s Theories” (for those of you who have stuck around, I hope you like the changes I’ve made to the blog’s appearance!).

Now that I’ve dusted off the cobwebs, I think a brief update on my life and writing is in order:

This past May, I was lucky enough to have one of my poems — and a personal favorite of mine at that — published in The Adroit Journal. You can find the poem here, but I urge you to read the whole issue. They always make real stunners.

From a birds-eye view, however, I haven’t been up to much in my personal life — just running around with friends, desperately trying to drink in my city, my room, who I’ve tried to be these past few years before I ship out to college and grow apart from the Allen, Texas me.   I want no detail lost, and yet I feel I’m missing something, there’s a gap. I need to know what it was we were all chasing, who we were then, what sort of image we were playing at.

There’s something about every space I’ve visited in my city, how it contains a disconnected and jangled mess of the pieces of me from the different eras of my life; I feel like there’s a conclusion about myself I need to grasp before I leave forever, before I grow so far apart from this version of myself, but it’s difficult to realize what “it” is when all my emotions feel glossy and trodden. But I think at the end of any year, I always admire who I was striding into it, when I was free-roaming and less self-aware.

I was jolted recently, however, by a quote from the AMC series Mad Men, pictured at the beginning of this post. I’ve undergone countless exhausting inter-personal and relationship issues this year alone, and through it all, I’ve been left with the impression that I’ll never be loved in the capacity that I want, by the people I love. This quote, in contrast, pushes the issue back on the subject, making me realize that maybe people really are trying to understand, to be a part of my life, and maybe the true problem rests in me relying on others to fill the lack I feel in myself.

In closing, I promise that I’ll have a more organized, substantial post up soon. In the meantime, enjoy the dazzling music of Summer 2017!

 

 

 

 

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evenings from my bathtub

And from the gutted ivory I birthed an immense quiet. In the lateness, the walls and the tiles stretching, sinking into a greater configuration. There were the hollows beneath my tongue, caverns deeper than moons, than the ends of god. Here, there’s always a burial of feeling, the weary moments passing through into the parts of me that span everything, a misty patched space broader than my fingers or the small streams of blood. The body is stunted; most of what I feel and know exists in the air, in the crooks of imaginary space. So many things endlessly tumbling and traveling through one square-inch of skin. All this found through a bullet wound, the opposite side of a name. metro

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publication news / quick reflection

Hello all!!! Long time no post and I apologize for that. My life has been extraordinarily hectic this year – courtesy of that unique comb of schoolwork + college apps – but I just wanted to stop by for a second to update everyone on some publication news and to post a short journal entry I made a few weeks back.

Anyway, two old poems of mine, “Tennis Shoes” and “Froth skies, bloody snow”, are featured in the 6th issue of Elsewhere, which you can read here. Please go check out all of the lovely works in this issue (not to mention that it was released just this afternoon!!!).

I promise that in 2017 I’ll make a greater effort to post on this blog weekly. Much love xx

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two poems

Kiera

(you may recognize the earlier versions of these two poems as two separate pieces that I’ve already featured on this blog. I was unsatisfied with them, however, and some heavy edits were in order, so here they are, complete! – hopefully I can finally leave them to rest as is.)

Wild Salmon

Tongues thick, the pink of my elbows, my knees. Sometimes the white tennis shoes leaked, the grass in the backyard ankle-high. When the pavement skinned me I lost nothing. A day swollen and full-mouthed, festering with light. A day with our palms stretched like cow hide on the overpass tarmac, waiting for the sky to birth crows, for the year to tip sideways and spill into clouds of yolk and grey. Low lights at night, something under-tongued and drowned, a year spent waiting for you to turn me small in your mouth. A car slid down your avenue in blue haze, radio blaring, and its meaning fell through me. When will this stop being so heavy? I drop everything I know into the basins of my thighs: years are lost in me. A subtle teething, bright rot of morning: asphalt heat weaving webs around our shins, how this only means something now. And the last night walking home with shucked legs, wet clothes, feeling like something was catching up to me, waiting for it to crash headlong into my back. In memories, I go half-deaf. In memories, I am quiet. Swimming through empty rooms in a body of sight. I see us strawberry picking, laughing from our bones. I watch the super 8 footage of your birthday, every movement an impossibility, everyone shivering in swallowed light, bodies excuses. This is not yet forgetting, this is only a mouthful of blood. Like a startled wait, this yearn wrung through teeth. Like a muscle unlearning itself in whiplash and the slow leaving too. It is simple: only this waiting-room, feathered march of anesthetics, falling through the hollows of a name.

Froth & Pulse

I. Sometimes, blood on fresh snow like an opening. Sometimes, the apartment stairwell back-lit, hallways laid bare for miles, tunneling throat. The woman next door presses her palms to the floor in gold-light, feels for pulses below, comes up empty every time. The dead dogs humming. The rise. Blue movements: telephone static, someone thumbing a bruise. Too much on either end. The glow & pulse of the tongue: my mouth as wide as this room & just as empty.

II. You walk into my dreams in marrow light. A sky froths and stutters over children skating on a frozen pond, spits up ravens that curl and shrink. When we were children, a sled crashed into an oak and blood spilled cotton-soft. Words shatter this type of lightness. But in this dream, it is my body splayed over the ice, palms sacrificing themselves to the sky, an empty threaded pulse. You walk past me and my eyes cloud until I’m blinded and the scene repeats.

In the years afterward, people will stand here without hurting and never know.

 

 

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