Clutter

the house looks like that kind of anxiety you can’t really talk to people about
because it smells like rancid dish water and stale, endless
masturbation
dust and dog fur mingle on hirsute heirlooms
my eyelids feel like the jowls of a bloodhound
I grind my teeth and breathe in peace-scented candles until I cough and cough
and cough up mucus more productive than me
texts to tyran that I feel guilty about
crafting collages until I’m cross-eyed
episodes of judge judy to convince myself that I am fierce
and to-do lists I write over and over so I can forgive myself for never completing them
but now my sheets are crunchy with resentment and if I clog my bin with lists
one day I will need to step outside
and empty it

Interview with Alex Creece, July Featured Author

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Starting this month, Rosewater will be having a “featured author” each month. The editors choose a contributing author, ask them a few questions, and focus that month on publishing many of their pieces. This month, we have chosen Alex Creece, a dedicated Rosewater contributor. Alex’s pieces have historically crossed genres, focusing on personal narratives, virtual reality and occasionally the overlap between the two.

Where did you grow up? How did it shape your writing?
 
I grew up in Australia and Dubai (UAE). I’ve always been extremely shy, but I think this trait has helped me become perceptive and find my voice through written words, rather than pressuring myself to talk for the sake of merely filling the silence. I’ve also met lots of vastly different people in my life so far and I try to strike up a good balance between upholding my ethics, but still being open to new information and making sure I am respectful of diverse opinions, not just ones I already agree with. I am passionate about my principles, but I like to make sure I am never too proud or righteous to be wrong or learn something new.

Which authors have most shaped your writing style?
 
Octavia E. Butler, H.P. Lovecraft, Margaret Atwood, Franz Kafka and Maya Angelou. I love oddities and honesty in literature.
 
What is your favorite Rosewater piece that you’ve written?
 
Witchcraft in the Modern Workplace. It has a lot of heart. And witches.
 
Describe your writing style in six words.
 
Whimsical, unashamed, vulnerable, introspective, sincere and…playful.
 
What advice do you have for young writers?
 
Share your work. I used to be terribly secretive about my words, even with my friends. At some point, I think I just became more interested in getting the feedback than I was afraid of it anymore. I’m so glad for that. Keeping my writing to myself didn’t give me enough opportunities to improve and expand on my ideas. It kept me in a bubble of self-preservation. Vulnerability is one of the most refreshing aspects of literature, and it’s even more wonderfully vulnerable if others can engage with your words too. No piece of writing will ever be universally appreciated, but if it matters to you, it will probably resonate with at least one other person. Your words cannot hold as much freedom if you clutch them too close to your chest.
 
Some of your pieces have dealt with difficult topics, like cat calling, mental health, and body image. Is writing your self-care? Do you have other ways to take care of yourself?
 
Writing is an important aspect to my self-care but I try to make sure I do lots of little things to help myself, just as I like to do for others. I was talking recently to my beautiful friend Tyran about stress management and he told me that I needed to make sure I was setting aside some time every day, even just fifteen minutes or half an hour, to dedicate to writing or any other kind of thoughtful catharsis. This has been helping me a lot, as I am trying to frame my own needs and well-being not as a pipe dream, but as a daily priority. Even in small bursts, dedicating regular time purely to my own interests makes me feel less suffocated, and as if I am switching off the other channels so I can listen to myself and properly tune in.
 
Where else can we find your writing?
 
Ramona Magazine, Antipodean Sci Fi, Literary Orphans…I actually have a list on my website, but it is in need of an update: http://www.creecedpaper.com/works/
 
What is next for you, writing-wise or in general?
 
I’d like to write some more short stories when I get a chance. I’d also like to get out of my comfort zone and try a new style or genre, or attend a workshop, or even read some words out loud where other people might hear them. As for what’s next in general, I’d like to continue finding ways to use my powers for good while still dressing like a villain. I hope that takes me somewhere interesting and helps a lot of people along the way.

Tell Me Your Stories

Entrust
Wikimedia Commons

Lately, I have discovered that I love to hear people tell me their stories. My past few jobs have been in the service industry, and gave me the opportunity to interact with the public on a daily basis. In all of those roles, the part I liked best was listening to what customers would share about their lives and what journeys brought them to my workplace. 

 Recently, a woman came in tea shop I barista at, and I ended up having a short conversation with her and one of my coworkers. She told us that her son plays the organ and because of that was able to spend a year at Eton, a private boys school,  in the UK. While attending there, he got to have a brief conversation with the Dowager Queen Elizabeth, the mother of the current monarch. I was incredibly impressed. How many of us can say we got to converse with the Queen Mother herself?

Queen_Elizabeth_the_Queen_Mother_portrait
Wikimedia Commons

I can’t quite explain why I like hearing about other people’s experiences so much. Maybe it because I’m a writer, and real life can be some of the best inspiration. Or maybe it’s because I’m an empathetic person and I want to know what the people around me are feeling.

These intimate moments of connection with strangers are some of the more meaningful parts of my day. Life has infinite possibilities and we are never going to get to experience all of them. But our lives are enriched when we learn about someone else’s background. When I am empathetic, I feel like I can live vicariously and experience people’s lives alongside them.

 The show Bojack Horseman on Netflix has a line that has stuck with me since I watched the episode it’s said in.  “In this terrifying world, all we have are the connections that we make.” The more I think about it, the statement holds true. We often define ourselves by how we connect to others.  Everyone is someone else’s something. 

So many of life’s most important moments happen because of the smallest things. Moments become memories, memories become stories. Stories are shared and the circle of connection grows. I feel such joy when I realize that by hearing people, I become part of that circle.

With all of the ugly events that have happened recently, more than ever we need to connect. We need to listen to each other. And this isn’t meant to be a simple blanket statement about sharing good feelings. We really need to listen and try to understand the experiences of those who we share the world with.

Please don’t stop sharing your stories.

 

Am I Doing Enough?

By RACHEL BOLTON

Am I doing enough?

Or rather, am I doing enough art? I use the term art loosely here. Art is music, drawing and painting, singing, acting, and writing. All of the activities that come from creativity.  Despite how busy I (think I) am these days, I feel that I’m not producing enough art.

For 2017, my resolution was to write more. And so far, I have. I’ve had several articles published, I’m almost done with the novel length fan fic that I’ve been working on for the past year, I’ve submitted my short stories around, and I’ve been writing consistently on several projects.

This isn’t me trying to brag about my accomplishments. I do believe I deserve to pat myself on the back a little for what I’ve done. My self-doubt needs to be reminded that I am working hard.

What’s the origin of my feelings of inadequacy? Is it Imposter Syndrome? Maybe a little. But the feeling isn’t so much that I don’t deserve my accomplishments. It’s more like I believe I should have more of them. 

I have a form of anxiety, and as my fellow anxiety havers can attest, the illness is pretty talented at lying to you. Anxiety can tell you that you aren’t good enough.  My anxiety can turn into a crippling form of self-doubt, especially when it comes to my writing.

I am terrible at taking breaks. I gave myself carpal tunnel during my first National Novel Writing Month from repeated hitting of the backspace button. During another year’s NaNoWriMo, I worked and worked until I was a human-shaped ball of stress. I didn’t stop and take care of my stress. Instead I told myself to keep working, and I nearly gave myself a major panic attack. It wasn’t until I was staring at my laptop, completely unable to type that I stopped working. There are other less intense instances of browbeating myself into doing non-stop work.

For all those demands on myself, a part of my brain thinks that I should have more to show for it. Worst of all, there is the little critic in my head that says I don’t deserve a break. Sitting and playing a video game for an hour to decompress shouldn’t be a bad thing.

Recently, I’ve been reaching out to my fellow creative types to hear what they had to say about the feelings that I’ve termed “Not Enough”. It was so validating to get evidence that I was not alone. I spoke to a few of my fellow contributors at Rose Water to listen to their stories.

What Rosewater writer Alex Creece said stuck out to me. She said, “we stifle our own imaginative and creative endeavors by holding ourselves up to prescriptive standards of what we think creative success ~should~ look like. Rather than creating for its own sake, we become fixated on creating in order to achieve a very particular end product or achievement.”

theauthorsdesk
The author’s desk. Note the list of projects to be worked on.

I think everyone is guilty of wanting to have the same success as a person you believe is more successful than you. But I think we forget that we see others’ lives through what they post on social media. We are looking at them through rose colored glasses. Not many people are going to post about their personal struggles online. Unless you are writing an article about your personal struggles, like me.

In the past few weeks I’ve been feeling better about my writing and habits. I tell myself that if I’m doing at least one creative thing a day, whether that’s writing, crocheting, or playing my ukulele, I am doing enough. I’ll even write little supportive messages to myself on the dry erase board next to my desk. Life gets busy, and we all can’t dedicate the majority of our day to our passions. We should be proud of any time that we do get to use for them.

What could you do when you start feeling inadequate or overworked? If you think you need a break, you probably do. You could take a deep breath, and do something new. Here are a few activities I did to get out of my funk. You might want to give them a try.

Paint your nails a funky color.

Get another tattoo.

Drunkenly watch Batman cartoons with your roommates and laugh. 

Walk in the sunshine to the library.

Eat ice cream with your significant other and talk about the plot holes in Harry Potter.

Drink tea with the cat in your lap.

Call your mother.

Call your father.

Share stupid memes with your friends.

Crochet a scarf and watch Netflix.

Reread old drafts for new ideas.

Sit and breathe.

Breathe.

Learn some new coping skills.

Get ready to start over.

You can do this.

I believe in you.

 

 

An Open Life

I had been foolish, once again, to let my heart be torn open by men.

My mother had warned me about this once. Strict, autocratic, with a tinge of neuroticism dyed into her every nerve, she had ruled over my household with an iron fist. No wonder – she had escaped communist China with her family, shattered but alive. She had seen the horrors of war. There was no room for romanticism in a world that required survival. She had always talked about marriage in a practical way – marry rich, ensure a caretaker for your children and keep your bank accounts separate in case he ends up betraying you, as men are wont to do.

This was and still is the antithesis of my very nature. As a child, I started to rebel against the narrow guidelines of an Asian-American culture that my fellow first-generation children know quite well, in search of freedom where I felt there was none. Instead of math, I relished art and literature, consuming books by the dozen. In high school, when I was supposed to be studying economics and business, I worked for our theater department by day, then wrote short stories and plays by night.

Predictably, my mother and I clashed over my freewheeling approach to life. This included my relationships with other people. “Don’t give your trust so easily,” she advised, “and keep your heart not on your sleeve but firmly in your chest. Always smile. Keep a check on your temper. Never, never let people know how you really feel.” (And men – men, they will always hurt you.)

In all my loyalty to my truest of selves, I always balked at her advice. I hated wearing false masks, shunning duty for passion. People were something I felt unduly passionate about. As a writer, I understood that everyone possessed good and evil, that everyone was capable of hurting and being hurt. What was the point of human relationships if you couldn’t open yourselves to others and let everything good or bad in?

Of course, this approach has hurt me, time and time again. One may think I am masochistic for opening up my heart only to have its fragile contents trampled. I myself have wondered if it was foolish of me not to heed my mother’s warnings.

But I remind myself that life hurts. Life includes pain. I should feel so lucky, perhaps, to feel pain and be alive or to feel anger and fight for the things I believe in. It isn’t easy to concede that point, not after a good thing has started to crumble, and especially not after having to unstitch and unwind two lives that were deeply connected for two years, but here it is – I’m alive despite the pain.

And to be honest, pain and heartbreak has helped inform my writing and my art. I wouldn’t ever support the notion that artists must be emotionally tortured or clinically depressed to be successful but to know the depths of pain is just as important as knowing the depths of happiness in order to taste all the multitudinous colors of experience that we’re granted. It has allowed me to humanize others, to widen my understanding of humanity, and to search for solutions that benefit people I’ve never met. It reminds me that life is never a simple, straight line, but instead a road full of twists and tumbles. That to truly live fully, we must embrace all of its curves.

When I went to film school for college, my mother and I again fought viciously over my choices. Of course, she had wanted me to follow my sister into the world of finance, where the paychecks would be large and I would have no want for money, namely an easy and happy life. Art would afford me no comfortable life. In her mind, if I followed my sister, I could retire by age fifty and make art then, travel then, be happy then. It’s a sentiment that I would imagine is oft repeated to children of immigrants: toil now, reap the rewards later.

While that’s an honorable way to live, the more she suggested it to me, the more I resisted. No, I can’t make art later, when I’m fifty. I have to make it now, to save the parts of me that nothing else can save. Financial struggle is something I’m familiar with. It’s life without art that sounds inconsolable to me.

Of course I understood why she had been so insistent on my finding a financially lucrative career – after having a home and a life ripped away from her at age nine, then leaving everything for a new country where she didn’t speak the language, she had experienced poverty on the harshest of levels and didn’t want me to have to do the same. My mother didn’t want all of her sacrifices to be in vain.

“You”, she said, “you have had it easy here in America. You don’t know how much life really hurts.”

I thought of all the moments that had caused me pain in my life. Of all the friends who left me behind, all the lovers who said, “No” and thought me unworthy of love. Of all the mental illness caused by being raised by a mother who bordered on it herself. Anxiety, emotional dysfunction, neuroses caused by a war –  who could name them all?

“Yes”, I said, “I do.”

 

Tantra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I write with you still on the tip of my fingers …

Table scraps of memories and all the places you bring me by the slight twitch and dip of

your muscles

I know nothing like your brand of love and thrust

Not lust,

But divinity

And the sacred energy produced by the rain,

of crashing elements.

Foggy and sticky,

You are in a lane

of your own

Super Saiyan patterns of flattery

The bedroom name “Goddess” falls from

Your lips with ease

And proof of how you’ve missed the alchemy of my chocolate

Strapped down by stardust

Chiseled as if cut from Greek god-cloth

Pre-cloth

Divinity inferred

And fortified at the seams,

Sealed in Onyx

Black diamond of perfection

You wield weaponry

That threatens me, to escape the barriers

Keeping me on the peaceful side of the barricade

Striding down streets with the fire of protest and implosion

Washing away anything I’d known about how the night might end.

Days begin,

Suspended on your lead

Cheering on the twerk of my hips

And calling out Godd when you see her!

…. Amani O+

Read Full Poem at amanipoet.com

The Last Taino Indian Has Not Yet Been Born

Photographer: Kiki Vassilakis
Photographer: Kiki Vassilakis

the other day a sister asked me
what does the diaspora feel like?
a question i’ve never thought of before
yet it invoked fleeting memories of
a home that was out of my reach
like the sand slipping through my fingers on the island of Borinken
i grasp at something that will never be mine

it’s a complicated blend of
lineage and forced genocide
of comfort and violation

it feels like love letters never sent
to a home that always offered dinner
but not belonging

just like the time my partner’s family
wrote me off as too angry
too rude
too expressive
because people like me should let the white folks discuss politics

it feels like never being black enough
or brown enough
or white enough
stuck between here and there
but never whole enough for both

it feels like the time you
forced yourself inside of me
because you thought you had a right
to re-colonize this body
it almost broke me

BUT ALMOST DOESN’T COUNT

resiliency runs in my blood
blood that my ancestors shed at the hands
of murderers and rapists
but i am the living testament
to surviving
to revolting
to existing when no one else wants you to

there’s a myth you probably learned as fact in grade school:
all of the Tainos were wiped out
conquered by columbus himself
an old civilization lost to disease and war

IT’S A FUCKING LIE

the diaspora continues with me

On Haters in Heaven 

Everytime you rub my name in dirt i celebrate!Dancing.

Feet bear 

Grinned and gritty 
Closer to my Mother and all the parts i am made of. 

Eyes washed of ego and able to self reflect. 

To listen,

and hear your timid. 

Recognize your cast off as a self rejection 

and hold myself closer, 

Divine and Whole and in Love in every direction. 

Bigger than hate 

Stronger than hate 

A hatred-swallowing Devotion. 

Unmoveable and Secure 

in being good and bad all at once.  

Being whole 

Being earth seed 

Being nothing 

Being strange and wonderful 

And bagless. 

Drama left at the door,


dripping down my surface at the entryway to heaven 

“Come in” it is said.

“We are waiting for you.”

-Amani O+ 

amanipoet.com

Welcome To Existence

sepia
Protest/Vigil Summer16 Jamel Mosely
You can make a me out of the most mundane things,

like dream

and drink and gravitational pull

and rotational calls

from beyond and forward reality

Flowing not Forcing. 
Not clasping hands around the direction of your own reflection

if it be going it’s own way

Some need halt it.

Some need crush and curse and thirst

to fault it.

To control it

no.

No!

No matter. 

“I”s can’t keep “we”s from where we are supposed to be. 

Loosened

Freed,

What might we Be,

Beneath the harshness

Dare Breathe

to,

Dream Free

to,

Just Leave.

Yet.

Something always brings me back.

For you.

And the ways that “I”s makes “We”saireals

and grow communities

Like gardens,

Here fallen,

Feeling you,

Holden

to a reinterpretation of time and sound

Song

Auld Lang on repeat like the seasons

Like

Snowflake, raindrops and a crystallized present tense

Us and we and you to share

like candy

Pristine, wrapped and proper

and sloppier than planning

A mess

A fragile beautiful mess,

each of us.

Ever strong in our malleability. 

Sculpted from the crust of imagination

Drenched in bottomless possibility.

Flourished in flow and synchronicity.

Welcome Home. 

-Amani O+ 

amanipoet.com

Horoscopes & Love Notes

Aries:
you’ve been fighting for so long
whatever comes next
walk into it with your eyes open

Taurus:
fill your lungs today
and remember that
this too is a gift

Gemini:
your body was never broken
there is no splintered split in you
say whole
now again
now again

Cancer:
you can’t carry the past
as one endless apology
forgive yourself first

Leo:
you were born with fire in your belly
another child of the sun
you’ve got the kind of glow that lasts

Virgo:
your mantra for today is “open”
repeat it until it’s more feeling than phrase

Libra:
it’s the season of the honey-hearted
curl and uncurl a fist until
you remember how to go soft

Scorpio:
today your aura is the same color
as sea glass and river water and
things that move in waves

Sagittarius:
there is no wrong way to grieve

Capricorn:
there are quiet expansions
happening all around you
so why should you be afraid
to grow?

Aquarius:
spin backwards through space
throw the universe behind you
relive your favorite moments

Pisces:
say please and
thank you and
I love you and
all the others you
meant to say