By: Lauren Spinabelli
I used to write the dark
a girl split open
like a pomegranate
then I was the dark
and the pomegranate
part of me will always be crying on a murphy bed in berlin
now I write sun-bloodied
bubblegum and sky
I wanted to knife open
I sat in a coffee shop
with a girl
I wanted to split
the whole universe open
to see who fucked who
why should you get to be everywhere
when I am still folded inside a murphy bed in berlin
at work they ask us to bring in a picture of something we did over break, something we did for
self-care. for me self-care was pressing my thumbs into the backs of my doc martens the night
before my grandfather’s funeral so that the skin of my feet wouldn’t peel and bleed as I stood in
a room with a dead body. self-care was not looking at the dead body. because what good would
that do. self-care has been a lot of melatonin so I don’t have to think about the shells people
leave behind. puppets without hands. and don’t get me started on the hands. self-care is
mostly just breathing, a weird balloon lodged in my chest that refuses to fill or shrink entirely. I
breathe around the balloon like I drive around roadkill or bite around the bruise of an apple. I
avoid ugly at all costs. self-care is writing this poem. self-care is calling this a poem. self-care is
eating an apple. self-care is not looking at my ex boyfriend’s facebook page. self-care is
remembering how many different foods I have left to try. my grandfather was in his nineties the
first time he ate a taco. calling him my grandfather makes him sound like a whole different
person but what we call him I know you will mispronounce, even in your head. what we call him
feels too precious to put into a poem. something warm I keep in my pocket, like the song I play
for myself on airplanes. an emergency needle for when the balloon swells through my ribs.
Lauren Spinabelli is a writer and teacher living in Brooklyn. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, McSweeney's, Luna Luna Magazine, Yes Poetry, and elsewhere. She is the writer of @tinyfairytales on Twitter and Instagram.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
I wrote some poems in college and high school, but never anything I felt comfortable sharing with anyone. A little after college, though, I started going to open mic poetry slams and performing and competing there. It really did wonders for my confidence, and helped me to grow as a poet. The slams took place in this pizza shop in Pittsburgh, with the workers shouting pizza orders over the poetry performances. It was magically chaotic.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
"Self Portrait With No Flag" by Safia Elhillo, which I have screenshotted and saved to my phone, because it's comforting to read when I get nervous on airplanes, or "The Orange" by Wendy Cope, which, actually now that I think about it, I also have saved to my phone for the same reason.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
I really like Alex Lemon and Jeanann Verlee. I read an Alex Lemon poem in an old issue of Tin House a few summers ago and I was like, "oh this is kinda weird... I didn't know poems could be weird!" So then I bought his collection, The Wish Book, and it's weird and wonderful and lovely. His memoir, Happy, is excellent too. He followed me on Twitter a few years ago and I was so starstruck.
I also love watching YouTube videos of Jeanann Verlee performing poetry. If I was ever stuck while writing a story, I just pull up a few of her videos and watch, because they always put me in an inspired, creative mood. My favorite of hers is "Communion," I even wrote a paper about it in college.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
I wish I had a consistent writing process! Both of these poems I wrote on my Notes app on my phone in bed on nights when I couldn't sleep. Poems usually just come from something itching at my brain. I write the poem to scratch the itch. That sounds really corny but, it's like I couldn't fall asleep until I wrote them down. I was once on a bike ride and stopped to jot a poem down in my Notes and then kept biking. I just had to get it out of me, or else I was going to be itchy for the whole bike ride. It's like how sometimes you're sitting in front of an empty Word Doc and you can't get any words to come to you but the minute you hop in the shower it's like "Oh, there they are. Sucks I don't have a pen in here." So I guess my rituals are: take a shower, ride a bike, try to fall asleep.
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
I wish I knew enough about poems to know anything about form. I just go with my gut, because I literally don't know any better.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
Just play around with it. Even a serious poem doesn't have to be that serious. Also, fruit. Throw a fruit into your poem.
What is your editing process like?
I'll usually write something in my Notes app, then sort of let it gather dust for a bit, then come back and make cuts as I type it up into a Word Doc. The first draft is always way too rambly and obvious. My second draft is when I try to give my readers some credit.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
When I send it to someone to read and then I notice a mistake, or something I want to cut, or something i want to add. So then I send a new version to them like, "Wait, no! Read this one!"