Avast ye! Here lie me ooooolde thoughts and those of other people. Ye might think of it as... a collective diary or perhaps a treasure chest buried deep in the sands beneath the olde waters of Davy Jones’ Locker. Read at yer own... risk, matey. Judge not the writing below without the acutest critical thinking, lest you plan on submitting your own fragment to my email account (which you can find on this website obvi). Argh!

Poems by Ivana Djiya (@localhotdad)

[[[Naomi’s note. September 22, 2021. Today is sweet Ivana’s twenty-third birthday. Later tonight I will see her and smooch her ethereal face, though for now, let me introduce you to some of Ivana’s poems that read like silken incantations cast into the walls of the writer’s bedroom. Here are moments from a life of unrest, genesis, promise: the solitude of a perpetual dusk.]]]






Impressions by Sarah Jane Collins (@sarahjanemaree)

[[[Naomi’s note:  June 22, 2021. On the occasion of our dear SJ’s birthday, I’d like to publish a poem she sent me in thick of spring. I love it for the obvious reasons that I might love a poem—it deals in visual art, the sensuousness of the human body and how it also imprisons us—but also because of its narrative unwillingness to focus. She reminds of one of my favorite poets James Schuyler (1923–1991). The two find kinship in a constant reorientation between the personal and the immediately perceived; a tender impulse to be in constant, private wonder of the circumstances of one’s own life.]]]


there was fog hanging
in the sky as I streaked
from New York for the first
time in a while, away from
you
                        and

all the things you
                                    make me feel

                                                    the long fine fingers on Degas’
                                                                                                 brother’s hand

the veins running gentle under his
fragile skin
              in tracts

calling back
to when I knew
what it was to push the
prints of my tips into the spaces between your thin
bones
       
                                                smooth and taut like the glass of this bay            I’m sailing on by
                                                                                                   
back where the metal mountains stop the sun
you’re somewhere
                                                but I won’t ever know where again
                                                                                                                    and I’m
numb

or at least
I thought I was

a kind text that takes me by surprise
the cherries in Manet’s model’s grasp
the way the Normandy coastal path
looks just like
                                                            Straddie
                                                                            or maybe Caloundra
where the ribs of a ship are eaten
by sand and sun
                                                                    scatters dizzily, opening the way
Monet’s caught it here

Turner sinks the bodies of the enslaved into a sea
                                                                              the pinks and creams
                                                                                            of the condemned late afternoon
a reminder
of the wretchedness of my flesh

And there is quiet on the rug
where Sargent
                                                                               renders little rich girls between two urns
filled with notes and favors
left behind 
                                for curators to find

on the way home I chase the sun west and think
of how I miss your warmth

but then I remember

how fleeting
it really was


Hot (Brown) Girl Summer by Nifath Karim. (@nifathkarim)

[[[Naomi’s note: February 17, 2020. Nifath is a writer and is also my friend. She sent this to me over the weekend. I composed a long, tumbling list of reasons why I like this work, but I’d like to highlight 1) its sense of humor which is as biting as it is patient and 2) its effortless structure. I frequently have a hard time stomaching narrative prose, because the thing that leads to the next feels contrived. Not the case here. Plz enjoy <3]]]



Tonight is warm and my Uber driver has just dropped me off somewhere in Brooklyn. I am standing right now in the middle of the street, poised to be run over, trying to find anything that resembles a functional door on this broken block. My phone beeps and New Boy texts me again, this time it’s a Boomerang of him wielding a lightsaber over his crotch. I groan and keep looking for the door to his apartment and find it wedged between an unpleasantly graffitied wall and a boarded up Chinese takeout spot. There is light inside the Chinese place, it is bright and yellow and I realise it is the only source of illumination on this street. I think I can hear screams and laughter and silence in there all at once and I urgently buzz for New Boy to let me in.

            There are shoes, far too many, just outside the door to his apartment. I stop to count them before I knock— twenty-two pairs, plus several singles grouped sadly in the back. They’re mostly sneakers, but I count three pairs of dress shoes gathering cruel levels of dust on them. It reminds me of funerals back home when everyone would take their shoes off, stacking them on top of other shoes forming a filthy pile for people to dig through later, dupattas wrapped around their heads, packets of tehari in hand. Ammu would always put her sandals in a little plastic bag and carry it around with her and taught me to do the same. She didn’t like touching other people’s shoes, she said all the dirt in the world collects under them. Duniyaar Moyla.

            I knock and New Boy opens. He looks just like his photos, tall and pale with shiny black hair that is just shy of being greasy. His eyes take me in, my too-short shirtdress that would make Ammu faint, my hair bleached to oblivion, glitter falling from my lids when I blink. I know he is thinking about what I look like under my dress and I feel a sudden thrill at the realisation that I am about to be touched by someone who isn’t You.

            It’s a very small apartment, three bedrooms are almost squashed into one another, separated by walls thin enough to be poked through. I sit on the couch in the living room, my knees uncomfortably tucked behind the coffee-table positioned too close to me. New Boy gets me water in an emptied jar of pasta sauce, the label hasn’t been peeled off properly. I pick at it while he talks to me, telling me about his life and work and the time he smoked weed in Africa and in Cuba and how much he wants to go to India and smoke weed on the mountains. He looks at me at this point, hoping I will say something like “Ah yes, India, where I fed goats and played with cattle and did yoga naked.” Instead I say “That could be cool. I’ve never been to India.”

            “Oh, wild. So you’ve like, never been to your homeland?”

            “Uh I’ve been to my homeland, it’s just not India.”

            “Oh.Oh.” He pauses, thinks and says “word.”

            I spot a bottle of vodka on the table and gesture towards it.

            “I want you to tell me where I’m from and for every wrong answer you will do a shot.”

            He is almost too eager to get drunk and three shots later (Pakistan, Guyana, Sri Lanka) I tell him he can use Google for help while I use his restroom. Like the rest of the apartment this too is tiny and cramped, and I have a hard time imagining him sitting on this minuscule toilet. There’s no hand soap, just a bottle of face cleanser that is clearly being used beyond its potential. I stare at myself in the spotty mirror, bored with how good I look. I am struck suddenly by overwhelming anger at You for leaving me, leaving my face and my body, leaving me with no choice but to stand in this awful bathroom in this terrible apartment with New Boy who I am sure can’t say my name right. I think of the last time You said my name and it fills me up with crazy hurt.

            When I walk out of the bathroom he is jubilant. “Bollywood!” he exclaims. I smile sadly, say “you guessed it!” and lead him into his bedroom. He starts taking my clothes off, his fingers pinching at the fabric like he is touching salt. He is so pale under his shirt, I can almost see through him. When he finally takes my bra off he says “Oh, wow” but not in the way You’d say it, more like “Oh wow—brown.

            We exchange sexual pleasantries for the next ten minutes, him pestering me with several variations of “does this feel good” while I respond with sounds that keep me from having to talk and lie. His bed creaks, actually squeaking like it does in movies and TV shows when sex is being suggested but not shown. Your bed never made a sound and I wonder if it was because our sex was never this athletic, or if your bed was just constructed better.

            When he’s finished he pulls me close in a surprisingly tender embrace and starts snoring almost immediately. He smells like You, he uses the same deodorant I think. I detach myself and sit up, looking around the room. I spot the lightsaber leaning against his closet door. It looks like a toy and I am tempted to put it away, to clean up this room with too many things on the dresser, too many clothes on the floor, too many books untidily stacked on his table. I think of Ammu cleaning my room, the way she’d arrange books by size, hang clothes by color, put all my dumb knickknacks into neat groups on my dressing table. He keeps snoring and I get up, start folding and clearing and arranging. When I’m done I stand back to look at my handiwork and I wonder how I ended up here, mothering this man who feels like a child. He sucks on his thumb and farts in his sleep. I dress quietly and walk out of his room. I can hear one of his roommates using the bathroom so I wait on the couch.

            I open Messenger on my phone and scroll down, down, down until I find my last conversation with Ammu. It was right after I told her about You, almost a year ago, and she’d insisted I end it or I would never hear from her again. I open the thread and read the messages I haven’t looked at in forever—me explaining how wonderful and perfect you were in your non-Islamic, non-Desi-ways, her texts angry and short and full of warning of the dangers of Bideshi Boys. I look at her profile photo and realise it’s changed since the last time I saw it. Since the last time I saw her.

            The roommate steps out of the bathroom and spots me on the couch. He’s shirtless and very blond, the hair on his chest looks like dust. We smile and he approaches me.

            “Hey.”

            “Hi.”

            “You’re that Indian chick he’s been talking about.”

            “I’m not Indian. But I probably am the chick in question.”

            “Oh, word! My bad.”

            He looks at me like he wants to flirt but isn’t sure how to do it. I get up and walk past him into the bathroom. I look at myself in the mirror like I’ve done so many times after we’d have sex. I would glow then but now I feel hollow and a little tired from cleaning his room. I suddenly want to cry. I want to call You and cry. I want to call Ammu and cry.

            When I step out of the bathroom the roommate is sitting on the couch, he looks at me like he has a plan of action now.

            “You know we couldn’t figure out how to say your name, so we just call you Hot Brown Girl.”

            “That’s-nice.”

            “So like, where are you from then?”

            I eye the vodka on the table and rethink it.

            “Bangladesh. I’m from Bangladesh.”



Written by Chris Molnar. December 20, 2020. Well, today happens to be Chris’s birthday. He sent this to me with the description: “prank e-mails i sent to powerhouse's listing for free bubblewrap once to mess with a co-worker!” 

#1

hello i have a special interest in sealed air and your offer is very intriguing. please tell me the contents of this bag and a good time for to come by and perhaps feel inside and look at what I can touch

#2

are bubbles big or small I do like both ways but prefer large this has good feel when I press down

#3

from this picture it does look to me that there are papers and other items can I leave this with you

maybe I pay you money to do this perhaps four

#4

yesterday I arrived at your closing time of 7 and waited for one half an hour but I did not see any worker although I did see this bag of material and did look at it through glass and these used bubbles do tempt so

#5

I do not understand why you told me this bag was already gone it is there. it is cruel and I will pay you perhaps eight dollars although your list does say free and I will return.  please tell me bubble wrap books thank you

#6

i did take the train two hours to the copy center where they do let me buy new wrap it is not so used as yours too firm to touch and cold factory. please I do not know why you do not let me take your wrap, I saw it was gone in the shop, you do not write.  it is soft at my house and I think you could enjoy the good feel but when I come in they told me I cannot ask for you. there is a tree with bubble wrap on the top leaves and that is where I live, please come



Written by Naomi. December 2, 2020. I went to locate a day in my life in my notebooks and found that there was a gap, that between finshing one notebook and receiving another (as a gift for my bday, from Mina in November 2019), that nothing exists to prove that I had something to say about my life at that time. I do remember documenting a particular day when I thought intensely about this one Giacometti sculpture that I liked. Then I had curry (Japanese) later for dinner and had a strong convergence of emotion. Perhaps what I wrote was in my notes (iPhone) or on my laptop (Word Document) or on my iPad (Pages Document), but at this point I don’t think I’ll get to the bottom of it. I keep thinking that the archives of earlier writers, in more analogue times, were more linear and indicative of the “narrative” of an artists life. So when their “papers” were posthumously uncovered, the pieces were more or less arranged to form the story of some decades. Now what do we have? Occasional IG post. Memory of a dream at five in the morning. Dismembered story because none other can now exist.


Written by Jose Carpio (@dr.carpio), published May 26, 2020.


I sat in the stairwell one evening trying to tear my phone in half.

Weighty and compact, its front and back glass panels did not bend. Its rounded metal edges brushed off the force of my twisting wrists, nullifying all my effort.

I continued to twist, wanting to see if I could get to the inside of something (anything), but the outside would not give.

I imagined that the evidence of my force was inside the phone: computer parts mangled by torsion.

Corollary: I imagined my body hitting the water, insides disarrayed, like a dumpling.

My body hitting the water, a distant dream.


By Naomi. March 25, 2020. Today is quiet, and in conversing with myself again I find that hues of maroon have become enriched, lightened around the edges and deepened in the middle. I wonder if those folks will find me at the outgoing tide of the lake, bathed in rubies, and if you—of my imagination, always coming and going—would consider me more me today than yesterday, than last spring, than this past autumn. Some seasons stick around longer than others, and for the most part we dive in and out of loss like visitors to the Earth. You should always express what you believe to be true. Remind me of that tomorrow in the morning in the light. When I woke up this morning, I was dazzled.



Ketterick Waddell. Black/Angst. 2020.
Photographic print. Courtesy the artist.


Written by Ketterick Waddell (@kettdubya), March 24, 2020. Vision is cloudy, yet from the third the light shines through. Dark is the day, and the night. Overcome with an uneasy sense of direction, polarized by every step. It’s as if we knew this moment was coming. When the path is transparent we anticipate it from our peripheral.

Two ways to witness the inevitable. Confronting it with the confidence of a drumline dancer at an HBCU. The bass beating in sync with a heart that drives conviction. The stadium glow bouncing off of vibrant melanin. Or, cowering in the presence of unchecked privilege and ostracizing stigmas. Minimizing your every step in an effort to avoid confrontation and condemnation. Playing the game without surveying the field from your empowered perspective.

Once in a while it manifests itself in the moment. Natural swagger that is in tune with every sound. Motions that flow in rhythm with every stride. Chest out, head high, waves flowing with a tail wagging, never tucked. Camaraderie from complexion, an unfortunate result of conformity.

Never do you have to explain yourself to anyone, you are exactly who you are...

By Naomi. March 17, 2020. And in time enough to be alone the mirror suddenly exceeds expectations, revealing not only what you’ve always seen (now more clearly than ever) but also that which passes underneath. S’pose it isn’t unexpected to see how tightly knit the sinewy parts are with those more fluid. It’s all floating inside me, unanchored, when all is said and done. There’s this assumption that we’re the dock for our souls. Never have believed in the idea of a soul, because how can it be we treat our bodies with such impernance and our more abstract qualities as everlasting? Because what I say is left behind after I write it down? I’ve always felt the absence of someone from my life when the person leaves the room.

By Naomi. March 3, 2020. The shape of knowing another person, and when did you first wonder what your favorite emotion was and why? Did you want it because it returned to you cyclically as in, the seasons changed and here it was once again . . . It’s as if you didn’t decide but were told. The tip of my finger caught fire in the dark and brought warmth that saved me from what had happened the year before.

By Naomi. February 29, 2020. It is a place no one else can see and that is where I will ask you to meet me. You will know of it because I will tell you how it can be reached and which way you should turn to arrive at the mouth to the cave. I await. You won’t find it in the sunlight; it is a place that becomes evident after the downpour of blue rain. This place is the kind that folds around its noises... breathing... the lapping of a handful of water against stone. It is a place that somehow demands so many prepositions despite the smoothness and simplicity of its surfaces. As I said we will meet there... but I will be there first. I’m mostly always there waiting, not for you, but for something. For an idea, perhaps for the extended archaelogical processes that were once promised to take decades and now take just years. Everything is so fast now, but I’m still here.




By Naomi. February 10, 2020. Green, green rocky road. Another green world. The color of witch’s eyes. Jade and grass. Sickliness. Envy. Salad as adjective—... color of nonbelievers. To be rested upon. Climactic, or everlasting. I see it long and out before me and want to walk down the path. Lives out, outside myself, is not wrapped up in my own feelings about other people, about things. Reprimanded in school for eating in class. Hours—over a number of years—watching the knoll. Wondering why my circle wasn‘t as concentric with others as others’ circles seemed with one another. When I was a little girl, my mother taught me to be a person of my own creation. Perhaps... one day, I would bestow that crown on a tiny girl I’d brought into the world... still... to decide if life would be worth living for someone else.



January 13, 2020. “My kingdom for a horse.”



January 1, 2020. The connective tissue of religion—belief (although people seem to love to argue that atheism is a religious practice of its own for its subscription to what they see as groupthink)—has felt elusive to me for as long as I can remember. Was telling my mom the other day how I never really remember having faith in anything traditionally fantastical, those fables that provide architectonic whimsy to children’s lives. As I grew older, my skepticism was emboldened by the overwhelming evidence that religion is underscored by sexism, racism, tribalism, violence, among other things... 

Considering other people’s structures of our world is an ever-evolving personal interest of mine, wanting to know how it is that my own conception of our days can differ so diametrically to another’s. I enjoy thinking about others’ beliefs; love their ancient relics and dependency and ways of explaining. I think of writers like Marilynne Robinson, who I love, and from whom I do not, in fact, feel so alienated. Above all, I gravitate toward her seriousness toward herself , her devotion to her art, an unshakeable need to explore the  fabric of human life on earth.  Perhaps my discussion of it all is some kind of spectatorship, because I oftentimes wish I was able to explain away the terrible or miraculous things as romantically as those who claim divinity. My own capacity to imagine and tell stories has largely been developed through encounters with religion. The mysteries come wrapped in ornate and intricate decoration; I want to dive in.