Poetic Correspondence: A Collection of Tumblr Asks & Answers (Vol. II)

It’s a glorious and dismantling thing when two strangers can confide in and confess to one another with only a couple of keyboards with which to reach out. Here are a few more of my favourite exchanges with people who have come incredibly close to me without ever closing any physical distance.


Q: How? How can I be merciful with myself?

A: Take long baths. Read more. Eat good food. Apologize to yourself for all the years of self-medicated abuse. Sleep in. Go out. Unless you don’t want to. Then stay inside watching bad TV and not feeling guilty at all. Mollycoddle your heart. Mollycoddle your emotions. Weep with wild abandon. Think about those things that happened that hurt you ‘til you were sore inside. Think about them for as long as you need to and then put them away. You are only human, friend. Which, despite my saying ‘only’ is an awful lot to be. You are allowed to make mistakes. You are allowed to have bad days. And good days. And days you are cruel and cold and detached. And days you want to braid daisies into the hair of strangers. You are allowed to hate yourself. But god, what if you didn’t?


Q: How do you stop loving someone who can never love you back?

A: You stop by stopping. You do it slowly. You force yourself out of their company. You create distance. You release memories. You are iron in your resolve. You shut the door on them. You shut every door, every entry. You avoid contact. You consider the relationship retrospectively, and you realize you deserve more. And sometimes, none of this works. Sometimes, you keep loving them. God, do you keep loving them.

But you love yourself more. You do what’s best for you. You choose to be loved, not only to be the one loving. And you wait. For someone or something else to engulf you.


Q: How does one get rid of fear?

A: One confronts it and it loses its power.


Q: How do you define your sexuality, personally?

A: I gravitate towards pansexuality, but if I really had to describe it, and had the liberty to take my time, I’d say:

I like people. I am attracted by the way people treat me. If you treat me with kindness, care, delicacy – I will probably be attracted to you. Of course there are physical attributes that get my hands sweaty (dark hair, heavy eyebrows, mouth like the ribbon on a Christmas present), but most of my sexual attractions stem from my emotional attachment to a person. Which explains why I have become enamored by petite girls who wear red lips and vintage dresses and forty year old stout women with grey cropped hair alike. Pale boys with self-assured voices and those handsome people who do not like to adhere to the male/female binary. Why I’ve found myself clutching at the hips of a writer and the shoulders of a computer scientist at different points in time. I like people that interest me. I like passionate people. I like people that talk with their hands and kiss with all their trembling bodies. I like people that understand me and people who make the effort to, even if they never will. I like quiet people, pensive people, hopeful people, sad people, lonely people, lovely people, love-me people, LOVE-ME people. I like anyone that takes the time to consider me, to reach out, to reach in. I like people that remember me against the odds. People that remember themselves, in the midst of the dozen personas we all switch between on any given day, I like people that remember who they are at the centre. I like people that want what I want, which is mostly to love and be loved back in equal measure, which is a lot of people, which is sincere and beautiful and oh so very human.


Q: I am going on my first ever date on Saturday, to dinner, and I’ve been reading your poems in the hope that I can be a woman like you.

A: Don’t be a woman like me, love. Be a woman like you.


Q: I have a scar on my body I was born with and it means I am too embarrassed to be unclothed in front of men. It’s the only reason I’m still a virgin. It makes me ache.

A: Believe me, if you are standing completely naked in front of someone who really likes you, they will not even be seeing your scar. They will only be wondering where to put their hands first.


Q: I love a man. But I feel so delicate that I’m sure he would rip me if we were to pursue a relationship. What do I do?

A: Give your bones more credit.


Q: I want to die and I don’t know what to do.

A: Stay away from sharp things and wet roads.

Contributing Editor /

Donna-Marie Riley currently resides in the South West of England. She is author of the poetry collection Love and Other Small Wars, published by Words Dance, and also featured in Between Sentiment and Sensation: Vol I, published by Red Paint Hill. She romanticizes cold coffee and bitten nails and she likes her poetry shaken, not stirred.

My Exception by Brianna Howarth

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My Exception

I didn’t mean
to write you
a bloody poem.

But that’s
what I get
for pulling out
all my teeth,

trying to show you
there are things
I can live

But you
are not
one of them.

Brianna Howarth

Brianna Howarth is a senior Writing major at the Savannah College of Art and Design. She explores poetry, memoir, and flash fiction. Her work has been featured in South Jersey Magazine, the mobile app Hooked, Artemis, and Port City Review. Brianna loves alliteration, bodybuilding, the beach, and books. You can wander through her portfolio here: alliterationavenue.wordpress.com

Hands to Heart’s Center by Olivia Wolfe

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hands to heart’s center

it’s raining
and I’m watching my step for snails.
I’m thinking about salamanders
darting in the dry brush about
the wet smoke of Marlboros
and the mouth of Malbec.

there’s certain anxieties about
the rain, about
the bus
that comes four minutes late
or not at all.

the man waiting speaks small things inside himself, he mutters:

too much teeth, never enough hands, too much teeth, never enough hands.

we have words for the way this seven o’clock sun
the side of your face, but
don’t dare call it

it’s easy like how we only ever fought after drinking, so that’s when I call to say
they fixed that crack in the road in front of your old house.

it’s easy like finding
the words
pollen and poison
when my mouth swells with Spring and
I am
full of your neck
all over

it’s easy like a hula hoop, when it starts to fall,
you swing your hips that much sweeter, that much lower.

the bus will come four minutes late
or not at all,
and at least we can always
count on that.

Olivia Wolfe

Olivia has western Pennsylvania roots, a weird overbite, and a Gemini habit. She has some other scattered publishing, including little words in Literary Sexts and Black & Grey Magazine.

I’d Chew My Own Heart If I Could Reach It by Cecilie Klingenberg

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I’d Chew My Own Heart If I Could Reach It

I chew on my lips until they bleed;

I guess that’s why some things I say come out so raw.

Just to love, without claiming

it’ll have to be enough, even for the thing in me,

that hoard hearts


to hang them around my neck.

I’m sorry this is all so bloody of me,

too soon, too much.

Like biting into my lip when it’s trying to heal.

But I want to press my bloody mouth to the salt water in you,

just to feel it sting.

Cecilie Klingenberg

twenty-something poet living in London, but comes from Northern Norway. Collects mugs, sugar packets from different coffee shops and frequently has to sit down and contemplate life because Leonard Cohen songs exists. Self published a chapbook called Kelp Song late in 2015 and runs the tumblr blog Ceciliewriteswords.tumblr.com which updates often.

Three to Read #14 with April Michelle Bratten


How to Break Up the Band
by Cassandra de Alba in Tinderbox Poetry Journal.

This poem (inspired by Yoko Ono) is a real stand out. It stuns in its simple, straight forward language and knocks you out with its enticing imagery. These lines say it all: “be the kind of witch/they are always burning,/but do not burn”.


Do You Feel Tenderness
by Niina Pollari in Poetry Society of America.

There is so much to love about this poem by Niina Pollari. This is a poem that you cannot quit, and every read thereafter will feel just as awe-inspiring as the first. Make sure to check out what Pollari has to say about the poem underneath, and it’s just as wonderful as the work itself.


Bobby Reads Chekhov
by Heather June Gibbons in Sixth Finch.

Gibbons is a poet I need to read more of and immediately. I walked away from this poem feeling like I had slid a little piece of the world into my pocket. Quirky, yet profound, this is a poem not to be missed.

Contributing Editor

April Michelle Bratten lives in Minot, North Dakota. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Gargoyle, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Southeast Review, Stirring, decomP, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Zone 3, and others. Her Anne of Green Gables inspired chapbook, Anne with an E, is due to be published in the fall of 2015 by dancing girl press. She is the editor of Up the Staircase Quarterly.

Houdini by Lindsay McLeod

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Sometimes they pass me the key
without even knowing it from
their own mouths, their tongues
on the tip of a kiss, the way out

picking the locks and screwing
the tumblers from the inside
of what we once thought was a
safe as safe in love as houses

teeth to chew through the ropes
of a relationship breached by an
iceberg when only one of us can
fit on the floating door darling

an off ramp on a rocky road
where it all comes down to ice
cream, you scream, the police
come, it’s awkward

but when the plane goes down
this whole contortionist thing
comes in handy for folding
oneself back into the black box

but it’s all so, oh I don’t know…
almost anecdotal why I can’t
fall without breakage now, my
hip or my heart or my horseshoe

‘coz Spring doesn’t spring so well
any more not like it used to leap
from the highest diving board
into a trembling glass of water

the pool is so much shallower
since, and let’s face it so am I,
wrung out and wond’rin’ what
might swim beneath the splash

but still I climb toward a launch,
a hunk of hedonism in my pocket
to see what I might find behind
my cloud on the other side.

Lindsay McLeod

Lindsay McLeod trips over the horizon every morning. He has won several prizes and awards and stuff for poetry and short fiction and published his first co-authored poetry collection, My Almost Heart, in 2015. He currently writes on the sandy Southern edge of the world, where he watches the sea and the sky wrestle for supremacy at his letterbox. He prefers to support the underdog. It is presently an each way bet. : twitter.com/offmcleod

Reasons to Stay Alive by Abigail Wang

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Reasons to Stay Alive

breaths like infinity matches, struck again and
again, and

she told me stories of women who stopped
storms with a fist

when the sky opens, pearl underneath, we cry
into our breakfast bowls

because it is morning, because we are weak, because we won’t
say the words out here

we spent evenings digging out the garden with a
wooden spoon

found a yard full of used matches, ends
bitten black

once upon a time there was a fire and a fight, a ground
swimming in lighter fluid

the world, a box of gas. listen carefully, the trees
are trying to speak with you

we sometimes wonder why the past exists
if it fades away

give ourselves too much credit, or not enough,
or not at all

think of barometers measuring the sadness in the air,
and then

think of borders. the edge of the wood. the peel
to the fruit

think of clean nailbeds and moons, soft hands, a
woman rocking herself to sleep

by the end of the day, she’s forgotten most of it.

what is real for her is the lines that appear in the walls,
the aftershock of a lamp

the last two notes of a birthday song, that she hears again
and again

Abigail Wang

Abigail Wang studies neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a poetry reader for Persephone’s Daughters and her work is forthcoming in The Emerson Review. You can find her photography at abigailywang.com.

Sea Legs and Empty Hands by Cate LeBrun

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sea legs and empty hands

a man walks into a bar. people laugh at dependency like
it’s in on the joke. isn’t it? aren’t we. i am the laugh lines
of my father above pools of whiskey tinted blood, wars
waged for decades against drinks that drowned fists.
we’re all tired in one way or another. i’m exhausted
drool on my chin from nights spent by the TV trying
to drown out the noise. family trees hover and haunt
like hangovers, gin halos buzzing behind the glow of sins
i committed before last call. before the last call we got from
him, the last call about him. the bottle by the bed, his body
and the floor one woven masterpiece. a decimal and a
hat trick for a BAC. two daughters. two daughters

i remember relatives who carried their sickness
the way i carry memories the way they ran from theirs

i want to help. i want to turn from everything they are.
everything i am. my aunt’s ribs, her bloated stomach
moving with a heavy life shallowed. things i didn’t see
because peace wasn’t a hand i was willing to shake. maybe
clichés are really clutches, bad jokes just lies we tell ourselves
to remember what it feels like to laugh. i keep running back to
them and other things: nights spent on the other side of the door,
forehead pressed to the wood kissing your palm. fingers clawing
at any part of you that will keep me afloat. i’ve built boats
from the wreckage. i’m split driftwood on shorelines.
there are holes in me everywhere

a man walks into a bar- all sea legs, all empty hands. in my
head, he walks back out.

Cate LeBrun

Cate LeBrun is a writer and special education teacher from Pasco, Washington. She loves dad jokes, extensive waffle menus, and a nice chat every now and again. Her prose, poetry, and short stories have been published in Gonzaga University’s literary journal, Reflection, and on her mom’s refrigerator. caterosewrites.tumblr.com

National Poetry Month Roundup

2016’s National Poetry Month has come to a firm close and most of the writers I know who’ve participated are happy to see it off. We can all put down the caffeine and apologize to our friends for making metaphors out of their relationship problems. It’s tough work getting out one solid poem a day for an entire month. There’s little time to edit or second-guess what you’re writing and for some of us, the inspiration doesn’t last throughout the whole month (although there’s no shortage of prompts to be found during this time of year). But out of the sweat and tears of emerging and establishing poets (once you sort through the mess of half-written pieces and untitled prose), there’s something organic about the poetry that gets rushed out in April. I like to think it’s something about necessity, something earnest and desperate, urgent to get on the page. In the spirit of that, here’s a round up of some of my favorite poems from this year’s National Poetry Month.

by Lydia Havens

by Yena Sharma Purmasir

by Sarah Gehring

by Lora Mathis

by Cecilie K.

by Irene Vazquez

by Emma Tranter

by Rudy Francisco

by Ari Eastman

by Kelsey Danielle

Contributing Editor

Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry.