Why do you love me when you told me you couldn’t love a lost monster? Why do you
restrain from erupting when I push your buttons and crash your creations, suspending your
plans? You’re flawful, my dearest, and this is why I open my heart as a loveless; let me present
my evidence, your honor. We dance in impenetrable fortressesses. You skulk and I scare; you
dance, and I dare the world to challenge us one more time. I miss hopscotching with you across a
soggy blacktop playground with pebbles encased in our fists.
Before I begin: Of course, there is no telling how much the world scorned you to date.
So, for brevity’s sake, I deem you the judge of our credibility (accounting for both me and my
unique species). Everything about our moral code is subjective, but I digress. Your honor, let me
open my case with a fact, because I cannot promise everything I relate in this letter will hold
truthful meanings for you. The word ‘shapeshifter,’ as you might have discerned from our title,
connotes our ability to morph, but not into people we have met.. Friends, Nature, humanity; this
is where the magic begins. We look into a long mirror, or any sizable shard of glass where our
reflections match the weariness of our hearts—and freeze. We capture the moment and hold it
close, because they tend to flutter away. Wings are too tempting for our kind.
there was once a body here,
pressed off the land
with pointed sticks.
prickled with shining teeth embers
and words filled with hate.
i have half the heart to hope she melted,
turned herself to rain
to nourish the plants.
maybe she offered her body as rations
to be dragged off and licked clean
by the loving creatures she freed from village traps.
Humanity choked itself with its need to grow, simplify, and automate. The air filled with
acrid rain, polluting and stinging her exposed body. She suffered in silence, withering in agony,
trying to keep up with humanity’s quest to rule the planet. She tried so hard, sending out
warnings, but her body quaked, sending humanity’s buildings tumbling onto her back. Still, they
would not stop. Then, she retched scalding acid, it dripped down her bosom, and people fled
screaming. She coughed and choked, to no avail.
Gaea sucked in a long, desperate breath. With it, nature retreated into her body and
disappeared. Her skin cracked, and her tears ran dry. The people moaned, sobbed and pleaded to
their gods, whispering apologies and empty promises if only Gaea would return nature’s spirit.
Their pleas were unanswered. Gaea was finally at peace. All that remained was her devastated
carcass. Humanity fell. The prayers ended, and silence, emptiness, and nothingness replaced the
cries and prayers.
All right, kids. Class dismissed.
Time to join the working class.
What you learned in class
stays in the classroom. No need
to find the volume of cones
or the inverse of cosine when
you should’ve learned how to cosign,
to bow to bosses and cut your losses.
Know that the classroom
is not where class ends.
That class permeates the atmosphere
like the stench of foul cheese.
That class clings to the walls
like stubborn blood stains.
That class is a construct caging clarity
and keeping everyone in a certain class.
at this rate
the hair on my head
is more likely to be shaven
than the hair adorning my legs,
or hiding in the soft underbelly of my shoulders.
what kind of woman am i?
i miss being a child.
i miss having my hair brushed and braided.
i remember i can have my scalp scratched
like a dog,
and the prickles on top of my skull
can still be laboriously licked clean
by a cat who loves me
and doesn't know a thing of showers
or beauty standards.
I’ve been a not-so-serious girl, a pleasure to teach,
avant garde save this sink plug and plastic lavender on chains
around my neck.
I’ve been a comedy performance, a holed-up critique of the teenage girl,
a series of vignettes about the same self-esteemed mistakes flummoxed
in the grim light after staring back at the pale, watery eyes of the male gaze.
I’ve been a starfish splayed on pool tiles, lovely and utterly sun drunk.
I’ve been a clutch of flowers balled in a fist, a recommended song
sitting filing my nails into pixels on a playlist
or a desperate obsession for a thigh gap like a medieval conquest.
I’ve borne the flame of intensity carried like kindling in my weak-willed heart:
easily pleased, easily gullible, easily lit up by our own frail stars.
Why wait until retirement to study those winking glints of inferno?
We carry so much of their gaseous chuckles in our own pockets,
our minds, further afield. Our music, our taste, to touch and know
we are stuffed with the hope that humanity can at least be honest.
I’ve been a graceful endeavour, a stifled laugh, never regretful
of the blaze of it all, this inferno of desire.
Don’t forget the world,
Where you most matter.
Beneath the rough wood--
Windows that only shatter.
The pieces fit so seamlessly,
As if they were never touched.
Infinitely and intimately,
The gold rush has just begun.
There is no map and certainly no treasure,
For the knots have been buried
For years and years,
Under misread measures.
Note: Story was originally published with She’s Got Wonder. They are not longer operational,
but the work can be found archived here: https://shesgotwonder.squarespace.com/journal/i-
For those of you who dream of “Once Upon a Time”, I’ve had it. I’ve lived each picture
perfect moment. Each chance meeting, every eye-opening kiss, and the most glorious of
“Happily Ever After’s”. I could tell you of ball gowns and castles and of the Prince Charming
who comes on horseback to rescue you from all that you have known. I have had it, and I have
lived it. But I have also lost it.
I used to be a Princess. Any girl can be one and any room can become an inescapable
tower if you deem the conditions of your life fit to build one. And I lived in a tall tower, the
foundations built from my life, and its towering visage of my own invention. I hid there for many
years, melancholy, magnificent, and measured. A scared little girl in a graceful frame, watching
and waiting for someone to save me from my life and from myself.
It had felt as though I had been waiting for eternity, the rescue from my self-imposed
exile untimely delayed. I grew more frustrated as the days went by, but I had friends in the form
of birds who kept me company and sang me songs. I passed my days reading the old stories my
mother had once shared with me beside my bed as I fell asleep. Whether it be day or night, I
dreamed of a faraway land without trouble or care, and a man to rescue and love me, and make
my life better with a single kiss. I wished for it every day.
Then, my Prince Charming came.
Whatever your “thing” is, it’s probably also somebody else’s thing.
If you’re feeling a little down, like there’s no reason to continue doing anything at this point, I would
like to offer up some options for how to proceed:
Abandon your craft. You suck at it anyway. Or maybe you don’t suck, but somebody else could be
doing it just as well or better, and that “someone else” will likely be more attractive, make less
mistakes, and have a more engaging personality. They will be a better fit for the “energy” of the
“collective,” and they will breeze through obstacles that once brought you to your knees. Set down
your paintbrush, remove your character heels. They look unnatural on you. Walk barefoot into the
Puget Sound and sit on the bottom with the broken chunks of asphalt that aren’t hurting anyone,
wasting time, or embarrassing themselves. It is a wonderful place to be, completely separate from
the opportunity to suck as hard as you were sucking previously.
Mercilessly continue doing whatever you want. Create funny trash and then frame the funny trash as
if it were hanging in the Louvre. When someone else inevitably creates funnier trash than your
original funny trash, make your funny trash trashier. When someone makes their funny trash even
trashier than yours, unfollow them on Instagram so you won’t lose your mind and concentrate on
something else, like learning how to dissociate. Eliminate preciousness from your creative process
(and amass street cred) by becoming a postmodern saint of mess and mediocrity. Become startlingly
unessential, dangerously mid, and completely and utterly shameless in your irony.
When I was packing my lunch last night, I was almost impressed by how good it was. I
don't get that feeling very often of "this is exactly what you need" but last night, I got jealous of
the future me who was going to enjoy this meal. So now, as I'm headed to the break room, I'm
ready to devour my food.
Lunch is my favorite time of day, as I can imagine it is for most people. It's the time to sit
and relax. When I get hungry, I normally get grumpy so I depend on lunch to make those feelings
go away. I also love my particular lunchtime because normally no one is in the break room. I
take my lunch earlier than most people to avoid the traffic and it really gives me a sense of
I put my Tupperware into the microwave so I could set up my temporary dining table.
This is my tradition and to make the tradition even better, a recap of Real Housewives of
Potomac came out today so I had entertainment to accompany me. I leaned against the counter as
my food sat in the microwave getting ready for me.
Then my sense of peace was gone. As I was pulling up my podcast to be ready when I
was going to press play, James walked through the door. James is my older coworker who used
to be a cool alternative young guy and now is an alternative old guy who doesn't stop talking
about the good old days. I liked James from afar. He was nice enough and told dad jokes that
pained me but I managed to chuckle. It wasn't until he knew that I had seen Back to the Future or
could hold a conversation about Pink Floyd, that James started to really interact with me more. I
think I gave him some idea that I am an elevated, high-brow member of Gen Z. Not a regular,
sticky-fingered, TikTok-watching, One Direction-loving member of Gen Z (which I am).
Because of these revelations, he talks to me all the time.
I must have been born with a vivid imagination and a creative nature that would ensure
reading had an overarching importance in my life. I read ‘Gone With The Wind’ for the first
time when I was eleven years old, and then reread it many times thereafter. Unfortunately for
my mother, I was a difficult breech birth: years later I would joke with her that the long and
challenging labour was due to me reading GWTW in the womb. “I should have had the
forethought to close that heavy tome as I made my way out into the real world,” I remarked
to Mom when home on a visit from the city, “but I was intensely engrossed in the burning of
Growing up in a large family, my sisters and I had a love-hate relationship, typical of many
children. I was a terrible tease with them; I was the proverbial thorn in their sides. However,
for the record they teased and taunted me too; in fact, they ganged up on me on many an
occasion, a middle child, and the only boy in a house full of sisters (several years later
another sister and finally a brother were born but were like a second family for my parents).
For example, they often insisted that I was adopted: making the best of a bad situation I
imagined there had been a mistake at the hospital between Prince Andrew and myself, and
my rightful and regal place was at Buckingham Palace in Jolly Olde England. As well, a
favourite trick of my sisters was to try to pull the towel off me that was wrapped around my
waist, when I was either on the way into the washroom to have a bath or on the way out. I
was mortified that my sisters would get sight of ‘the family jewels’, in all their glory and
It is generally known to be true that boys are testy and odorous little creatures, but girls are
just plain mean and spiteful when they have a bone to pick (and they don’t forget anything,
better than any elephant you may have met). When at our worst, we fought like cats and dogs,
enjoying every minute of our sibling-based battles; at our best, just have someone say
anything untoward about any one of us, and a line was drawn in the sand, the wagons were
put in a circle, and all artillery was pointing outward at the enemies. In short, may God have
Mercy on those children who had decided to pick on any one of the Potter brood. As siblings,
we were as thick as thieves, and sometimes did some good-natured thieving - seeing if we
could steal a chocolate bar from the candy counter at the town’s most popular restaurant-
coffee shop when the owner was busy at the cash register, just to prove a point. Even though
that woman kept an eagle eye on us, the hand is quicker than the eye!
They tell me to be at peace.
They don’t notice that I am in pieces.
Regardless of the blood that drips from my lips.
Regardless of the bruises that shackle my wrists.
They wrestle control from bloodied fingers,
and crack my knees against the floor.
They wish to strip me of my strength,
and trap me in my voice.
They wish for me to cease,
gagging me with dirtied money.
They think it will stop me,
stuffed mouth unable to speak.
have you ever seen a butterfly
go on a rampage?
it’s a sight for sore eyes
or a sorry sight for sympathetic eyes
her picturesque wings fluttering
rapidly in the wind
her delicate body swaying
trashing to escape
and the giant roams
with his butterfly catchers
swatting, seizing, snatching
prying, abducting, invading
Mother made the grass grow
Not the rain
Her hands nourished
What must be kept
& what must be scythed
Is my womb crying out in pain because a month has gone by
with another egg unfertilized or is it echoing
the maenad lament across the country,
grief-stricken, hair matted, bloodied
from a war waged and lost.
it is amazing. the variants there
are of girlhood - cracked spectacles leak
glitter, plastic, gel, the virus spreads
with every definition. we are a mixture
of brain and heaving lung - one keeps, one kills the
other. priests say - "are loving and consuming
not the same?" do not swear at my body (my brain,
my blood). you should not name it
(not priest and not another woman).
we must not make more names than there are people
we must not pick a person for a name
Her shoes were made in the year 1977. They belonged to her grandmother when she was
a young woman. They were wingtip derby dress shoes in a size 8-and-a-half with a very slight
heel. She’d been granted permission to wear them to work after filing a special request with her
employer. She’d made a very thorough case for the shoes. They were in beautiful shape,
closed-toed, and sturdy. They’d made her bring them in to prove that she could sprint down the
hallway in them. The shoes were made from alligator skin, her favorite animal, said to still roam
free in the half-drowned Atlantis that remained of the Southeastern American wilds, where her
extended family had once lived, just outside of Miami – what the shoes lacked in utility, they
made up for in history.
Tip-tack-tip-tack, the shoes used to go, smacking tiles as she walked back and forth
across her grandad’s deck like America’s Next Top Model. Now they made almost no sound at all,
just a faint thup-thup-thup. Principal Ndongo’s allowance of the shoes hinged on the condition
that they be appropriately dampened – several spaces in the facility still had hard, lacquered
floor, namely the cafeteria and gym areas. She paced around the empty facility, poking her head
into all the rooms that would be, any time now, full of human beings. During her extensive
training, she’d participated in several full-occupancy armed safety drills, but those always struck
her as falsely urgent, bordering on ridiculous. They were meant to further complicate an already
fabricated scenario, like trying to catch someone off-guard while playing Simon Says. Simon
Says get the fuck down, now, now, now.
Catch the sweet river water
That moistens chapped lips,
And honeyed tears that overflow
Your love holds worlds together
Did you know?
It’s okay sweet, sweet baby
Wash the sins from your fingertips
Release the staleness of emotions
Heavier than the unforgiving sun
Walk into our mothers acquitted tongues
This is how you’ll come to yourself
Darkness wears this part of the world with shadow
& there is the patter of water on the tarred road outside.
I pick my phone & stride through the memories in photos
& then your portrait pops up at the last few slides
The one where you carved your face into an image
Of smiles like a sculptor
& it held my gaze. Like glue to paper.
It’s been a year after. The day the flower sprouting
In the soil of our hearts died. & I died with it too.
You had asked us to see. The meet morphed into the
aftermath of a knife through meat— caressing
The thread that held us with a blade.
after kaveh akbar
fire stained skin.
sinners at dawn. we’re.
failing at both.
we clutch moons.
in our plucked hands.
to reveal the secrets of.
to wash our fire stained.
skin. with prayers and
our fallen sisters.
the sun reminds us.
our love is dangerous.
our love is designed.
to be roadkill.
the sun reminds us.
weep for their sons.
we pray. in the moonlight.
in secret. Is that the only way?
to be beautiful?