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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

things i could have been

By: Carina Stopenski

white trash wife of

a white trash man

in the radioactive town

that i called home,

appalachian enough

for struggling gardens

and chewing tobacco

but not enough to

see mountains and wish

they’d find my body there.

anointed matron

clutching beads,

mother to no one

as crucifixes splinter

against my calloused hands,

pray for the stigmata

so i could bleed out

at the altar before they

mark my flesh for hell.

in prison.

struggling artist in

a shoebox nyc apartment,

throwing paint against canvases

and having surface conversations

with sycophants who make

more money than i ever will

if only to keep up appearances.

eclectic healer

in a back-alley shop,

truant teenagers

loitering at the doorstep,

peeking in at incense clouds

and sharp crystal points,

hoping that just for a moment

they can see my reflection.

dead in the ground.

ward of the state

on asylum floors,

banging my head

against the wall until

flecks of tooth and clot

spit sideways against

ivory speckled paint.

spouse. lover.



Carina Stopenski (they/them) is a writer, teacher, and librarian out of Pittsburgh, PA. Carina received their BFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University, their MSLS in Library Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and their MA in Literary and Cultural Studies from Carnegie Mellon University. Their work is forthcoming or has been featured in Defunkt Magazine, The Closed Eye Open, and Silver Rose Magazine, among others. Carina's poetry centers around the queer experience, body studies, and transhumanist perspectives. In their free time, they enjoy playing video games, attending concerts, and meditating in nature.

"This poem actually started out as an assignment from my art therapist! As someone who constantly gets overwhelmed thinking about the past and the what-ifs, she encouraged me to think about what sort of path I could have gone down if I had made drastically different decisions at some of the most formative events in my life. Whether it was escaping an abusive partner, leaving an oppressive church, choosing to avoid addictive behaviors--I started mulling over these different versions of myself in different timelines and what their lives may have looked like. I am not any of these things (though, I have since achieved "happy" since this poem was written!) and to imagine these iterations of myself as fleshed out characters as opposed to what-ifs helped me to process the decade of complex trauma that has followed me into adulthood. "things i could have been" was mostly just an exercise in practicing self-gratitude, but then evolved into a really dear piece to me."


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