Year of the Witch

I don’t appreciate the word “soul.” Maybe because I was raised Catholic and it usually meant something greasy, evoking all this dirtiness and nausea that you could never be rid of. Maybe because I am tired of the idea of transcendence, of the desperate desire to remove ourselves from our bodies and the sensory world. But also maybe it’s just because the word doesn’t belong in poetry anymore. It had its time in the spotlight. Emily Dickinson sang it. But who needs a soul? Who wants a soul?

This Halloween, I trick-or-treated. “But you’re like, thirty,” said my sister. She dripped red paint on a white gown she bought for five dollars and I put a fake parrot on my shoulder. Adults and children alike asked me if it was real and they weren’t joking. My sister turned pumpkins into the Sanderson sisters. I brought them to work and they won a prize.

I read the Penguin Book of Witches, edited by Katherine Howe, which is a collection of historical accounts that detail the witch trials in America at the end of the 17th century. It was terrifying. Not because of the witches themselves of course, but because of all the condemnation. All the “evidence” that was presented to the court. How it was almost always middle-aged women who were poor and didn’t care for their era’s social norms or abiding by their village’s code of conduct. I sunk my teeth into those particular stories about the women who cackled in court, how they made fun of all the hysteria around them and remained steadfast in their innocence until they were brought to the gallows.

penguinbookofwitches

November is already halfway through. The elections came and went. I did my part, but a lot of people my age didn’t. I wish they had. I was ill the day the results came in. When I was able to keep my food down again, I donated to the Human Rights Campaign. Maybe you should too.

When I’m feeling stuck, I enjoy reading about all my friend’s creative outlets. Something you might not know: most of my friends actually aren’t writers. They often enjoy reading, but they don’t write like I do. Everyone has their thing though. I was freshly inspired after finishing my essay for The Rumpus and browsing through photo galleries of a friend’s soapmaking projects. I read more about DIY projects like this and fell through an internet rabbit hole. I stumbled across this piece on Rookie and now I suddenly want to experiment making my own perfume oils and fragrances. Something bottled and concocted. I want to name these potions specific things and add in fragments of rough emeralds or amethyst. I want to turn the kitchen into a heavy-scented apothecary. I want to be like the mom from Kiki’s Delivery Service.

kikideliveryservicemom

Lots of witchiness this year, or perhaps not enough. Maybe never enough.

In response to the recent rejections I’ve accumulated, I’ve been sending out more and more submissions in flurries, before I even have time to process the sting that I figured would’ve dulled by now. But my soft parts haven’t numbed to it quite just yet. So far, this other technique seems to be working.

A friend asked: Why do you buy all these literary magazines that continue to reject you? My answer: Every writer is a masochist. We take pleasure in our pain. What else could it be?

Here’s the latest helping of chocolate ice cream sprinkled with tears:

nanobwr

We don’t need a soul.


Fifty Shades of Orange

There are probably just a few weeks out of the entire year when the weather in Florida is perfect. When the humidity is no longer oppressive, when the heat has cooled, when the storm clouds have gone. This is one of those weeks. You can be sure that we have all the windows open.

They already have Christmas ads everywhere, but we’ve been celebrating Halloween to the fullest anyway. I have been consuming everything pumpkin: cookies, pancakes, juice, cider, cake. Pie is only for Thanksgiving, of course.

My sister decorated our pumpkins:

We’ve already had a neighborhood party. I made cups of dirt, a Halloween treat I loved when I was little. I’d almost forgotten about them, but I was reminded when thumbing through one of our neighbors’ holiday cookbooks. There are decorations everywhere around the house, both inside and out. Cobwebs and severed hands hanging, orange lights, skulls, masks. Everyone dressed up except me because I couldn’t really come up with anything this year. I probably should think of something. The real Halloween is tomorrow.

I’ve been writing lots of things in lots of places: in my physical journal, in my online journal, in letters and emails to friends I miss a lot. I haven’t written as much fiction in the meantime, but I am still sending things out. I am trying to make it my duty to always be sending  things out. Why should I wait anyway?

I wrote about finding community through writing over at ReadLearnWrite. Writing is mostly lonely, but there are places where it doesn’t have to be. Not always.


Paper Storm

I’m not a hoarder. I like to keep my surroundings relatively spacious or skeletal, depending on how you see things. I’m even thinking about trading or giving away most of my books. The ones that I feel like I can part with, that is. I don’t need very much.

One thing I do tend to collect is paper. Stacks, towers. Folders and drawers bursting full. Filled with old stories that have been written on by other students, receipts and bank statements from years ago, postcards from my high school peers that I’ve lost contact with completely, notes from in between (or during) classes, letters from pen pals on the opposite side of the world, torn envelopes from my late cousin when he was in a correctional facility, cards from my various graduations and parties.

Mom hoards things for the holidays. One of my favorites is Halloween. When I was little, I won costume contests a lot because my mom would put my outfits together herself. She was clever, but I didn’t make it easy. I would always choose characters from video games that no one recognized, like Kung Lao and Geno. The rim of Lao’s hat was tin foil.

Usually my dad turns our garage into a haunted house and trick-or-treaters come and take a look. But this year, he is trying to throw a party. My mom finds this hilarious. I’m in charge of making a brew of pumpkin juice and cups of dirt (crumbled Oreo + pudding) with gummy worms. We’ll see how this all works out.

My mom is much more traditional than I am. She treats the holidays very seriously and she believes in them like a part of a heritage. Paper is becoming an old medium of expression. Paper is the oldest thing I cling to. It is ancient and even mythical, much like the stories behind these particular times of the year. Computers are convenient, and I do use them a lot, but I still like to have the stacks around. I don’t think I’ll ever be any other kind of hoarder.

One of my poems is going to be published in the first issue of Foxing Quarterly. This is my first poem ever that is going to be in a print publication. Excitement from everywhere, although another thing to collect and keep. I promise I will get rid of some books soon.

Thinking of old friends and all the chaos from the paper clutter, I made a mix called “Passing Notes.” It’s funny and sad and serious and not too serious all at once:

Passing Notes from josephdante on 8tracks Radio.