“Call me creature cobbled from medulla and the rhythm of song in a foreign tongue.” (a reading for you)

(on 24 May, 2017 & with 2 Comments)

My friends, I have a small gift for you that I hope you’ll accept: a fumbling & uncertain & honest reading of one of my favourite poems I’ve written, filmed while I was nestled in the gorgeous sanctuary of Virginia last year. That time of sun on my toes & joy in my chest feels too far away now, but watching this takes me back to that beautiful distance. Performing this piece was a rather nerverwracking – yet, simultaneously, an utterly glorious – experience. Perhaps I might share some of that butterfly-fizz-soft light with you today.

This is called “Love in Goddess-Speak” & was taken from my first chapbook, Heaven or ThisI’ve also attached the full text here, if you’d prefer to read it.

A reminder that I’m able to share my art with you for free because of the generosity of my lovely Patreon fireflies. If you enjoy my work, please do consider showing your support in a tangible way.

Enjoy. I cannot wait to hear your thoughts in the comments. xox

Love in Goddess-Speak

i.

The first time I realise I am in love
with a girl, I am two moments past ghosting
and every single cup of chai sneers as I pass.
I wish so desperately to be anywhere
but in this family. Somewhere catatonic,
with no lungs for knowing.
I am in love with a girl who has light skin
and glass-stained eyes, and this is just
another way of pronouncing star-crossed,
autumn, the worn-down temple elevator
when it grinds to a halt for no reason at all.

ii.

I am Indian in the way of American accent
and smiling in Tamil when the relatives come
to visit. Call me creature cobbled from medulla
and the rhythm of song in a foreign tongue.
My mother’s cousin squeezes my cheeks,
asks when I will find a nice boy to settle
down with. None of this is revolution, nor
giant solitude, but I want to remember what
the sky looks like when the world ends.
In private, I disappear in her soft arms. In public,
my uncle teases me about boys, pokes my ribcage,
mistakes the tears leaking out of the corners
of my eyes for good-natured laughter.

iii.

My body is a country pulled three different
ways, trampled into topography of wanting.
I read myths of goddesses who rolled
India into their palms, conquered
without blinking. Who baptised their souls
with blood from another aching land, who
refused to let memories pull them under.
I curse profusely. I dream of her mouth. I
do not let the words I bet Kali is a lesbian
slip out of me at family reunions.
My cousins side-eye me when I laugh at
a sexual innuendo, wolf pack wondering.
Later they will go home and speak fast in
Hindi about my scandalous shoulders, how
they peek around the edges of my sari like
something not meant to be remembered.

iv.

I love her in the way that I love garlic naan
and the feeling of a temple after dark.
My mother passes the prata, alu curry. In this
life, I am girl with hair cut short and heart
too big for my body, too afraid of seizured
legends and my cousins’ warring tongues.
I ignore the questions cascading around me.
With one hand I eat the food of a land I am
learning to call my own, even as it pushes me
further away. With the other I send her
text messages under the table, feel
the ground beneath my feet return to holy
as I do.


A Couple More Things That Are Good (Part V)

(on 17 May, 2017 & with 5 Comments)

(Because, judging from the emails I have been receiving from you lovelies lately, I have a feeling we all need the reminder.)

i. Girls’ nights. I think perhaps the ritual of them is what delights me so – the sense of kinship formed so effortlessly among a group of people whose souls perfectly intersect with one another for a single night. How soothing it is to paint each other’s nails & eat more cookie batter than you actually bake & watch ridiculous cheesy films & speak of things that may, on the surface, seem mundane, but really mean universes to those special few who are in on the secret. How beautiful it is to be in on the secret.

ii. The car ride home after an evening of exhausting happiness – how your eyelids are pleasantly weighed down, limbs ready to be cradled by soft linen, everything enveloped in a rather quiet silvery haze.

iii. Ridiculously long phone calls. You know the ones: they’re meant to be a half hour but end up taking five, as if the magic is stretched out like bubblegum or preserved in amber, & you are not quite sure how all of that time soared by so swiftly, slipping through the crannies & across the seas, only that the other person’s voice is the whole bright wide sky & you cannot imagine a time when it was not singing, warm & soft, in your chest.

iv. Music. Of course, of course, of course.

v. The writing in not-writing. I’ve come to believe this part of the process is the most important by far: soaking up the rain, twirling in the grass, chasing shards of sun, wholly existing inside of this miracle called life without any obligation to write it all down. And then, of course, writing it all down anyway, because that is what you were made to do, because there is no other alternative, because writing it all down is part of the wonder of it. And all this light.

vi. Turning the last page of an old favourite book & feeling indescribably, unfathomably whole. That spark of something breathless & shining & familiar & real. It’s something like finding, or like remembering, or like coming home.

vii. Unexpected good news. Case in point: I recently learned that I received the Best Actress award at the Singapore International Student Film Festival for my tiny swelling film SUPERNOVAThe news came on a rather horrible day, & I spent the rest of it floating around in a half-here-half-not state of shock & joy. To be quite honest, I never thought I would win any acting awards at all… &, even now, I’m not quite sure how to piece all of this honour into coherent words. Isn’t that grain of unbelievability so tender & lovely, the way good news knocks you down out of the blue & swallows you in its unfathomable, dreaming warmth? After all this time & no time at all, I think I’m finally learning how to chase that feeling. I think I’m learning how to hold it close.

 

/

 

p.s. love these small reminders of the good in the world? support their creation on patreon (& receive small weekly notes & poetry from yours truly as a thank you gift).


A Sudden Painful Joy (How I Am)

(on 5 May, 2017 & with 6 Comments)

It is May now, & we are nearly halfway through 2017, which astounds & tickles me. This time of year is rain on windows & sudden sun at the moments we least expect it, clouds trickling in & out at whim. We are transitioning between the hot & rainy seasons here in Singapore, all these shades of fickle-tender wonder.

This is how I am.

Half Mystic is gearing up for our third issue, around the theme of nocturne. Issue III is full of so much shadow, but also – somehow, in the oddest & loveliest & most unexpected places – light. I am thankful every day for how much this small journal & its hardworking team & contributors are teaching me, & I hope that you too might let it into your life this summer. I would be so delighted to send it to you for sweet-sticky summer nights ahead.

This is how I am:

Anxious but well. In love with so much I do not understand how to put into words. This feeling terrifies me, & I think perhaps that is why I must hold onto it.

I am so pleased to share that the gorgeous Euonia Review published three of my poems. They are pieces that you have probably read before if you are not new to my small corner of the internet – “Lovesong to the Coming Storm”, “Quell”, & “The Sun’s First Gift to Her Lover” – but before now they did not have a home beyond the blog, & I think this one is a beautiful place to keep them for always. Have a read, if you are so inclined.

My baby sister has gotten into brush calligraphy. She is astonishingly talented at it, & my engineer parents who cannot tell Picasso from Plath from Kahlo from Kafka now have a poet daughter & an artist daughter. I have a feeling this is not what they thought they were signing up for when they had children. ;)

I did an interview with my dear friend Michelle Tudor for The Wilds. Here is where you may take a look. It is short, but, I hope, worth the read.

Something I believe more than anything, deep in the bones where the soul lives: this world can & will & must get better. We are nothing & nowhere without that belief, so I will not let it go.

Related, a blog post I adore, shared with me by a beautiful Six Impossible Things reader: “I must remember that my track record for surviving bad days is 100%.”

This is how I am:

My tiny film SUPERNOVA is out now, was shortlisted for a film festival, & is garnering so many stunning reviews from those who have allowed it into their lives. (From Debra: “It’s a masterpiece.” From Kaylin: “I’ve been following you since 2014 and I can safely say this is the most beautiful thing you’ve created for your audience, ever, period. I watch it over and over.” Please excuse me while I cry.) Lydia Eileen wrote a review/essay of the film on the Half Mystic blog that is far kinder than I may ever deserve, & Kimberly Hoyos of The Light Leaks did a small interview with & profile of me as a writer & actress in celebration of the film’s release. This creation that means so much to me is reaching hands across the world that hold it soft & true. For that I am so grateful.

I have been taking many long walks lately, sometimes with Hachii & sometimes without. The rain comes & goes. My chest aches with sadness, but even still it feels good to breathe in with no promise or obligation of anything else.

A bit of bright news: I received first place in the high school poetry category of the University of Virginia Writer’s Eye competition, with a new lil poem called “So, Stranger”. Also: I received the editor’s choice award in the 2017 Brain Mill Press Student Poetry Contest for my poem “When My First Boyfriend Learned I was on Anti-Psychotics, He Laughed & Told Me He Always Suspected I was Crazier than I Let On” (which will be shared on Six Impossible Things very soon!), & I was a finalist in the same contest with my poem “Dream Sequence”. Such a joy & honour.

Two things that have made me laugh (full-on-belly-ache-little-aftershock-giggle laugh, the best kind): math problems for English majors & the one sentence that makes every book better.

This is how I am:

Trying to be kinder.

This is how I am:

My baby sister’s foray into brush calligraphy has rekindled my own interest in typography in all of its forms. This essay on the subject is absolutely fascinating; I could not recommend it enough.

Currently I am reading Emma Donoghue’s chilling, swerving novel Room, as well as the utterly flawless latest issues of a few old favourite literary magazines – Issue 8 of Wildness by Platypus Press & the May 2017 issue of Thrush poetry journal. Recently watched: the documentary Minimalism (dir. Matt D’Avella, 2015) & the classic film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (dir. Miloš Forman, 1975). Alas, I did not greatly enjoy either despite their generally high reviews, so I am hopeful my next watch will be a bit better. Listening to this lil playlist – which is slightly all over the place, but at least filled with honesty.

“Quarter-moons. Violets. 1960s French pop songs.” I did an interview with Black Lawrence Press’ Sapling newsletter on the creation & curation of Half Mystic; you can subscribe to the newsletter right here to have a read.

Some days it is hard to remember self-care, but I have been focusing recently on eating three meals a day & drinking eight glasses of water & sleeping before 11pm. It is simple & (in a funny blue-soaked sort of way) healing.

A few lovely destinations around the web… noise machines to calm the anxious among us; a beautiful way to make a difference with your everyday purchases; gorgeous traffic light artwork; a short film that made me cry unabashedly in front of my computer screen.

“I believe that, in a world that consistently pushes us to toughen up & sharpen our edges, the truest defiance is in softness.” I did an interview with the wonderful people of Cicada magazine, & I must admit that I am still pinching myself. Cicada was such an inspiration to me as a child & played an enormous role in shaping the writer I am today, & to be featured by them is a dream come true. Purchase the issue here, or, if you are so inclined, read just my interview here.

People are so beautiful in so many ways, & some of those ways are foreign, & that does not make them any less beautiful. I am trying to notice that. To remember it.

Do you ever read something that makes your soul let out a deep sigh, as if it has found something real & shining that understands it completely? This quote from T.S. Eliot did that for me recently: “This is one moment, / But know that another / Shall pierce you with a sudden painful joy.”

I can think of no greater privilege than to keep searching for sudden painful joys. Even through the sadness & the anxiety & all those fogs.

This is how I am:

Yesterday I went out for a walk just as the sun was setting, & I stood on the sidewalk & watched all of the old men doing tai chi in the field across from my house, the small children falling over each other & discovering their own souls, the dogs sniffing street signs, the runners inhabiting tiny pulse-pounding galaxies, the sky roiling & singing & turning inside out to find a name for itself, & I breathed it all in, & I thought to myself: the universe is so large & I am so smallAnd for the first time in a long time, that thought brought me not fear but wonder.

So: this is how I am.

And you?


Preorders are Open for Half Mystic’s Issue III: Nocturne

(on 19 April, 2017 & with 2 Comments)

Something sharp & true shifts within us when we embrace darkness instead of shying away from it. This is what I am learning in serving as an editor & curator for the third issue of my baby literary journal, Half Mystic. As the stormclouds thicken & the world around us grows ever darker, we lean into music only to find that it too holds its own brand of night – & I am realising in curing this issue spun from shadow & song that that is perhaps not such a bad thing.

Friends, I am so pleased to tell you that preorders for the Issue III of Half Mystic,centred around the theme nocturne, are open now. Nocturne embodies the midnight drive – the shadow dance – the things leftover when the music fades to black. It is defined as a composition inspired by or evocative of the night.

Half Mystic’s third issue is our best one yet, carrying pieces from writers like Maryse Meijer, Kristen Berger, & Sophia Terazawa, musicians like Erica Bramham, Emily Blue, & Lisa Heller, & a very special featured artist whose work we are enormously excited to unveil. This creation will be shipped to your doorstep on June 14th, 2017– a beautiful companion to dream with on sweet-sticky summer nights ahead.

Interested in seeing your words or music featured in Issue III? We are still open for submissions until May 28th, 2017. I’ve gotten some questions from you lovelies about how to work with me beyond my editing services, & this is a beautiful way to do so. Send us your best work; we welcome it with open arms.

In the immortal words of Leonard Cohen: there is a crack in everything / that’s how the light gets in. I hope you will join me & the whole HM team in this third issue as we find shades of light peeking through the cracks even as darkness presses deeper all around us.

Submit your work to Issue III: Nocturne right here. Preorder the issue right here & receive a gorgeous volume of art, lyrics, & writing that stretches out through darkness, plucks the strings of night, burns stars into being even in all this black.

The nocturne issue is shaping up to be rich, abrupt, & unlike any of Half Mystic’s previous issues. We could not be more honoured to share it with you… & I cannot wait for you to hold it in your hands soon, soon, soon. xx