I used to be afraid of drums

When we went to parades

And I sat on my father’s shoulders

I could feel them in my chest and it scared me

I wanted to run and hide

I didn’t love music

I didn’t live for it, like I do now

Now I hear that beat

And I realize I feel it in my heart,

Not my chest


When I was younger

I didn’t love the stage

The theatre bored me

I had no interest in watching people perform

but that changed a some point in my youth

Now, performance is what I live for

Although I was born to be spectator first,

Performer second

Rarely and never necessary


I wonder if

When she sits there

In the back row

Legs crossed and a smirk

Like some kind of rock and roll goddess

I wonder if

She wants him

I wonder if

She knows he’s still hers

When he puts on an actor’s mask

And picks up an instrument

When he’s a rockstar for the night or just the hour

I wonder if

Is he looking at me?

Object Permanence



purple petals sprinkled

and mixed in a big silver pot

reduced and strained, poured

into a tall glass bottle

shaped like Paris’ favorite monument

kept in the fridge

to be combined with penguin seltzer

in an ice-filled glass

when the summer has finally warmed enough

to sit outside,

on a pink and green quilt,

and sip

those purple petals

adorn the dashboard

of a character I made up

named after a Norse goddess

and turned into a werewolf

the same small purple petals

that a broadcasting company attached to my story

when they marked me as top five

and made my name worth googling

and solidified my place as a writer



purple petals

that I want attached to me, drawn


as a reminder

of hot summer days when the lavender bloomed

and the bees went mad,

swarming our overflowing garden

as a reminder,


that creativity is not a choice for me


regardless of who does

or doesn’t

shortlist my words,

is as much a part of me

as the ink on my skin

importantly permanent

a reminder,


that I am an artist

that I am a writer

that I am still the girl on the pink and green quilt

It Didn’t Happen Like This

He noticed her when he walked in. She had mousy brown hair and a smile that looked like it shared a secret with her eyes. She was drinking espresso out of a tiny cup that didn’t match its saucer and writing in a notebook, surrounded by the debris of an artist at work. Pen caps, ink smudges and empty mugs laid in her wake. She looked up when he walked in, just like she looked up when anyone did, searching for someone to incorporate into her stories. Their eyes caught for a second, sending her blushing and him coughing awkwardly into his fist. He ordered his coffee, something he hated but drank anyway because it fit his image.

He watched her slyly, and when his heavy latte was placed into his hand, he took a small leap of faith. Footsteps approached her small window table, but she was busy now, half deafened by the voices yelling in her head. “Hi,” he said. She finished scribbling, a pointed period punctuating the uncomfortable pocket of silence inside the crowded coffee shop. “Can I sit?” The cup shook a bit in his uneasy fingers. She had been approached before, her silence there only because confrontation made her clam up. He pulled out the empty chair across from her and sat, sending her stomach fluttering. He was well dressed in a simple grey sweater that matched the sky outside.

“You’re a writer?” He waited, she blinked. “Aren’t writers supposed to be good with words?” She smiled at him, laughed a little.

“Only on paper, evidently.”

He looked relieved, now that her mouth had opened. Two sets of shoulders relaxed. Luckily they had enough to talk about, so him and her because us/we/them on a rainy, fateful summer afternoon.

Breakable, breakable

I thought I was breaking your heart,

but it was you who broke mine.

And it was silly to think, because you’re a city and

I am just a blip on your massive timeline.

I am just a human. I am nothing to you.

I didn’t even etch a single mark into you.

You are a collection of age old buildings and cobblestones.

You have survived great wars.

I am a collection of breakable, breakable bones

and skin that’s so easy to tear.

I haven’t survived anything.

You became my favorite place in the world and I was easily forgotten.

Sister, Sister

She stands taller than the rest of her small family, not quite towering, but with more of a poised presence. Most people seem alarmed, offended, frightened even, when a stranger tells them that their beauty is almost otherworldly. But she’s magnetic. With the kind of lips that are easily described as pillowy. Smooth, perfectly bronzed skin and small, dark eyes covered by expensive lilac tinted shades. In between her grey crop top and light wash shorts, is the small of her back, the space covering her spine a valley. Wrapped around her hourglass waist is a thin arm. The arm of a younger girl, wearing mascara and matte pink lipstick but navy blue overalls covered in multicolored hearts. Her legs are bronzed, but in a less calculated way than her sisters, still covered in the dark peach fuzz of youth. Tanned, not from lying on beach towels and turning every hour, but from full days spent running under the sun. Her hair falls in long, ebony ringlets from underneath a backwards baseball cap. The gorgeous hair that her sister traded in for permed straight locks and pin striped highlights.

They’re both arresting; beautiful, brown and soft. One is painfully aware of that. The other clings lovingly to her arm, laughing at everything she says and looking up at her with eyes full of awe.

An Anxious Excerpt

This is an excerpt from a short story collection I produced through my school. Two of my peers and myself wrote short stories involving a kind of mental illness (Anxiety, Depression and Grief), all set in one school in one day. My peers wrote about two students at the school, whereas I chose to write from the perspective of a teacher. This is the end of my story, taking place after a long and stressful day.


Gail shuts the door behind her as she steps into the warmth of her home. It’s dark outside, she’s late again, grading papers and writing lesson plans long past seven o’clock. Her shoulders fall, no longer needing to set a good example for anyone with proper posture. She rolls her neck, shakes her shoulders, trying to shake off her anxiety brought on by the difficult day dissipating behind her. She sets her bag down, slips off her shoes and places her keys in the shell-shaped bowl by the door.

Her husband is singing along to Frank Sinatra in the kitchen, the sounds and smells of dinner sizzling melodiously. This makes her smile slightly, his off-key voice too loud and uninhibited for him to have realized he’s no longer alone in the house.

Gail pads softly down the entryway, passing the living room in her socks and stopping in the doorway of the kitchen. “Hi Robert,” she calls, her voice straining to be heard over the music.

He turns, startled for a moment, but then he’s grabbing her hands and leading her into the kitchen, trying to get her to dance along to That’s Life. She laughs harder now, no plastered smile necessary. They waltz over to the stereo and he drops her hands to turn down the music.

“Hi honey,” he kisses her forehead.

“How was your day?” she asks, plucking a carrot from the cutting board as he flips over the chicken.

“Oh, the usual,” he launches into a mundane story about another day at the office. She’s calmed by his voice, not quite monotonous, deep and lulling. He plates salad, rice and chicken, telling her a mildly funny story about his lunchtime meeting.

He pulls the chair out for her, setting both plates on their small, two-person table. The kitchen is warm and garlic-scented. Robert sets a glass of chilled white wine to the left of each plate before sitting down across from Gail.

“Isaac called today.”

“How’s the baby?”

“Sounds like she’s doing really well. Getting bigger everyday. She can almost walk now,” he cuts his chicken into even strips.

“And Meghan?”

“Healthy as ever. They both sound tired, but they’re getting used to dealing with having a baby. Preparing for the terrible twos though.”

“I wish Isaac could remember how terrible he was. He had a habit of biting.”

“How could I forget that?” Robert holds up the index finger on his left hand, which still has three tiny tooth marks in a shiny scar.

“We really should have them over soon. For brunch or something.”

Robert nods, pushing a forkful of chicken and rice into his mouth, adding nonchalantly, “Maybe give Cordelia a call too?”

Gail nods, but her neck tenses again, tired of having this conversation. “We can’t keep paying her rent Robert. She graduated a year-and-a-half ago. She needs to get a job, but instead she’s relying on you always giving in to her demands.”

“She’s our youngest daughter, Gail. We can’t just cut her off.”

“That’s not what I’m suggesting, Rob. But maybe only paying half the rent.” They eat in silence for a few minutes, her chest flaring under her green sweater, the only sounds being forks and knives and the dishwasher humming behind them.

“The chicken is delicious,” she reaches for his hand, rubbing her thumb over his briefly. Apologies were always emphasized to their children, but seemed to have missed the adults. Both are too stubborn to say I’m sorry.

“And happy anniversary, by the way.”

“What?” Gail scrapes her fork through the rice.

“Twenty-two years of teaching, sweetheart. Congratulations!” He’s smiling kindly at her, his hand still in hers. He reaches his other hand out for his glass, and when she does the same they clink, the sound reverberating around the quiet kitchen.

“Thank you,” she’d almost forgotten, the beginning of the day and her excitement over a cupcake almost inconceivable.

By eleven, Gail has removed her violently green sweater, swapping the day’s constricting khakis for pilling grey sweatpants and a loose cotton top. She sits in her closet office, which is cluttered with cards and drawings from students. Art from her children is framed and lining the walls, soon to be taken down and replaced with art from her grandchildren. Family photos crowd her desk, some in the form of magnets stuck to her computer. They’re years old now, from when her children still lived at home and they could take vacations in the summer. She always liked that, a perk of being a teacher. She had whole summers off, for road trips and sunburned faces pressed cheek to cheek.

One of her favorites sits precariously on top of her PC. It’s a photo she took of her whole family on Hoover Dam. Robert stands behind the two boys, holding bunny ears behind Dylan’s head. He’s scowling slightly, thirteen-years-old, misplaced angst making it impossible for him to pose or smile. Isaac is twelve and ecstatic, an engineer at heart, so much difference in that year between him and his brother, smiling widely. Gail remembers his fascination with the inner workings of the dam, the rushing water loud and exciting to his ears. Cordelia is balancing on one foot, like she was trying to take up as much of the frame as possible, in a floral dress and clashing floral tights, her curly blonde hair wild in the wind, her tongue sticking out from between the wide gap in her front teeth.

She was so sweet back them, when she was still eight and still a mama’s girl. That lasted for fourteen years, until both her brothers were gone, and the house started ringing with silence, punctuated by doors slamming and shouting competitions. Gail thought having dealt with two teenagers would have made her a pro by the time it was Cordelia’s turn, but she wasn’t prepared for the hatred she felt emanating from her daughter. Gail feels her heart beating faster in her chest. She takes a few breaths, then punches a number into her landline.

It’s almost one by the time Gail slips into bed. It’s only Tuesday. Wednesday now, technically. She’d had a surprisingly pleasant conversation with her daughter. Cordelia had agreed that half the rent was more than reasonable. She said that she already had a few interviews lined up. That had made Gail happy, finally seeing her youngest take some initiative. Cordelia even told Gail a little about the new guy she was seeing.

“Girl talk” wasn’t something they ever really shared. Cordelia had been a secretive teenager, and Gail had never been sure who out of the gaggle of teenagers that traipsed in and out of her house for five years was “just a friend.” But this time, they had talked for almost an hour. Two adults, easily mother and daughter again.

Gail is happy with this thought. She settles into her plush mattress, matching her breath to synchronize with her husband’s. But another thought is creeping up on her. She tries to simultaneously push it away and remember why she doesn’t want to think about it with each weighted blink of her eyelids.

She didn’t help anyone today. Chaos rushes back to her. She remembers, suddenly, with almost violent clarity, that look on Alex’s face. Anger and fear and desperation. Anxiety starts flowing through her again, prickling her skin, her eyes no longer heavy but stinging wide open.

That poor girl, Emily, who didn’t come back to class. She’d left discreetly, Gail hated to admit. By the time class was over, though worried sick, the school knew there couldn’t be a man hunt. They’d have to wait those forty-eight hours, making everything seem just a little more like a crime show. Her mind whirrs. Her chest is clogged with that desperate feeling. A useless feeling. She quietly pushes the duvet off her. She pads down the hallway, past their large bathroom, past the washer and dryer. She falters in front of Dylan and Isaac’s room. Alex reminds her vaguely of her eldest son when he first started high school. Quiet and brooding. Dylan even went to counseling for a few months after he started skipping class and chain smoking. Gail reaches her hand out in order to peel off a leftover piece of tape from the signs that had once plastered their door. She continues down the hall, passing Cordelia’s old room, eight letters still spelling out her name on its surface.

Gail creaks down the staircase, her footsteps muffled by the four-year-old carpet. She makes her way through the entryway, passing the den and their neglected dining room. In the kitchen, she makes herself some tea, switching on the light above the sink after scalding her hand on the steam from the kettle. She sits with her mug of mint and honey at the little round table. Her head is spinning emptily. She rests there, alone in the half-darkness, waiting for her tea to cool. The clock ticks closer to morning.

She wants a solution. But for now, she finds solace in the fact that at least fatigue puts her in a good mood.




Some time last year, I purchased 642 Things to Write About. I have yet to fill out a fraction of the prompts, but I am putting my favorites here.

There are two kinds of people: drunks and survivors of drunks. Which are you?

I’m a survivor of drunks. The perpetual designated driver. Mom. Alcohol is fire and it makes us stupid. Maybe I’m in the corner with a stout glass, filled halfway with whatever and Coke. But all I really do is stand and watch. Glasses clink and people stumble. I laugh to myself, feeling a little superior. I’m not, I know. Not really. I just have to be home by eleven.

The nape of her husband’s neck. 

It’s become her favorite part of him. Late at night, she stares at it. She’s spent so much time looking at it, she’s memorized the swirl of downy hair that she can only see when his curls haven’t grown too shaggy. He used to like to be kissed there. Sometimes, she tries, but he’ll get up, heading for the bathroom. Sometimes, she feels him staring at the nape of her neck. She turns to him, but he rolls too. Sometimes, there’s a lipstick stain there. It’s never hers. It hasn’t been for months. One night, she snaps a polaroid of him, sleeping, breathing. The nape of her husband’s neck. What she used to love. She climbs out of the window to sit on their sloped roof in checkered pants and nothing else. She’s laughing.

Describe a trip to an amusement park, focusing on the colors, sounds, smells and tastes of the day. 

Roller coasters smell like fear (puke, sweat, tears) and unbridled joy (cotton candy, corn dogs). They sound like rusty nails and wooden planks about to snap. The red paint on the side of the haunted house in June is chipping, peeling. The air carries the faint smell of shit over from the neighboring pasture, mixing with caramel corn and funnel cakes, so no one can quite put their finger on why the fair grounds smell so odd. A stream of sticky sweet soft serve slides shakily down the dimpled chin of a chubby child. Beneath the screaming and crying and laughing there’s a B-list band playing in the muddy outdoor venue. Beneath that, beneath it all, if someone listens closely enough, they could hear the voices of the people who once belonged here and are now dead.

Write a story using four L words: lipstick, lust, loss and locked. 

Carmen Manila dumps the contents of her large, black pocketbook onto the carpeted floor. Her life, essentially, lies before her. The things most needed and the things least important. A small silver pen, won from a Christmas cracker. A pair of large, cat-eye sunglasses, and a pair of square, pink ones. White headphones that only play out of one ear. A receipt with a heart drawn by the barista she lusts after, stuck halfway in a notebook embossed with her monogram. Stray peanut M&Ms, what a loss, fallen out of their yellow package to grow sticky in her bag for weeks on end. Makeup samples litter the floor, nicked and unused, from a recent trip to a Big Name department store. Three rings, one silver, two gold, a packet of matches and a lighter, a leather wallet. The handkerchief from her ex, a symbol of the secret she’s kept locked away for eight weeks. A bottle of ibuprofen, with two pills left, and a grimy coin purse from her vacation to Greece two years ago. A half-empty bottle of flat sparkling water. A stolen lipstick, red, and a purchased one, a nude she finds unflattering. Frustrated and defeated by the confrontation of her entire life lying lackluster on the carpet, Carmen returns everything to her purse. Even the lonely M&Ms.