Poetry

"Without her, it’s a miracle how things never seem to collide into other things." (a poem for you)

My heart is pulled in many different directions right now—alarmed at the horrors happening in our world, overwhelmed by how much work there’s still left to do, yet so unendingly grateful to be alive anyway, so full of lost-eyed joy, like stained glass held up to the light. My new book Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing comes out exactly a week from today, & I feel cradled by that sweetness, the lead-up to launch day a ritual I treasure more than maybe any other—but at the same time I’ve been feeling a little burnt out by all the promotional work. I love this book, & I believe in this book, & I want this book to reach as many hands as possible. Still I find myself exhausted by the day-to-day of it, & I must remind myself always to keep spinning a poem about rebirth.

I wanted to share with you both some older pieces from Portrait which you might not have read before, & also a new piece—one not published in the book, but that evokes wholly & holy so many of the collection’s silken shoulder-risen offerings that it felt fitting.

In case you’re in a poetic mood today, you might enjoy pieces like “Trigger” (I love the girl. Can I not have this soft / thing, too?), “For H” (your mother taught you to be a good girl / which is another way of saying she taught you not to take up space with your wanting), “Lightning / Hunger” (Ready or not, here I come. When you / say this, it should mean children’s game, / not war story), “Infernal / Inferno” (I can never find her hands / but still I know her fingertips are matchsticks), “When My First Boyfriend Learned I Was on Anti-Psychotics, He Laughed & Told Me He Always Suspected I Was Crazier Than I Let On” (I wanted to murder him, / but his body kept getting / in the way), “Quell” (Let me talk to you about all the ways she pronounces mercy), “Mealtime” (What is it they say about / love? That it’s only possession reimagined), “Serenade to Surrender” (Every shade of blue lies face-up. This is how we know / how much they’ve suffered), & “Pandora” (goddamn. Who knew people could be sunlight). They're all featured in Portrait of My Body as a Crime I'm Still Committing, my latest collection of poetry.

& if you have not preordered Portrait yet, you can do that at this link—it ships worldwide. The book comes out on May 27th, & the launch party is on May 28th, at 8PM at the Merry Lion in Singapore. You can RSVP to that right here—it’s free & open to the public.

Here’s a little poem that very nearly made it into the book but paused steps away; it’s called ”Points of Faith” & found such a lovely place to rest as the grand prize winner of Vocal’s Poets in Motion contest, chosen by Erica Wagner. Thank you for singing it home. xx

Points of Faith

When you are as lonely as this, every month smells
of her skin. Choose one, any one—February, August,

like a vending machine, cards in a deck, you can never
come all the way back. The whole damn calendar is

soaked in her. When you are as lonely as this, noon
& midnight both hold the false assumption of innocence.

There was always an object, there was always light, they
were always here the whole time you were threatening

to forgive yourself, singing very quietly, slightly off-key:
surprise, surprise, she never loved you anyway. When you

are as lonely as this, there comes a point at which your
only wish is to grow a little lonelier. At this point, if you

walk down the road, all you will find is the moment you
didn’t look back. The moment when she would have killed

or lived for you & you kept walking anyway. Such a
pointless & brutal landscape as love deserves a song like

that. Make up a new month, decorate it with more angels
or less mouths. Go away for a long time & try hard as you

can to forget the smell of her skin, wreathed into ball-
point pens, the screen door never fully closed. Something

in the dark owes you for the time you’ve made up, a debt
you will never collect, a consolation prize. Without her,

it’s a miracle how things never seem to collide into other
things. It’s a miracle how quiet this place remains.

"Look around. This is the world without you in it." (a poem for you)

poems for the sound of the sky before thunder, my third book, has been receiving so many beautiful reviews recently—from Jeremy Mifsud: “Winters’ collection is both the storm and the silver lining. It starts out well and keeps getting stronger with each poem. … In these poems, I kept finding the reasons to standing back up and fighting, amidst all the pain.”

& from Sophie Falkenheim: “Winters does with words what no one else does. Boundless, elegant, somehow sharp and soft at the same time. I like to read poetry that has a kick to it, that leaves me feeling like I’ve been hit in the ribs sometimes. This book does just that. … I for one have no idea how Winters writes these—how they write with such depth and care dedicated to each one. It is, in fact, astounding. Worth a read. Worth several reads. Worth a home on your bookshelf.”

I thought I would share a poem from the book with you, a raw & aching little piece that still makes me tear up a bit to read today. This one was originally published in Chowing Fat, BooksActually’s blog, & I so hope it gives you what you need right now. If you don’t have your copy of PSST yet, you can pick yours up right here, featuring this poem & many more.

Thank you for your kind words, my loves. They mean everything, everything.

After You

This is how we define every day:
ringing phone & car ride home & film montage slowing.

& the music stopping. & moon
we point at only to realise you are not here to wonder with us.

Yearning, we call this,
the feeling full of swallowed distance.

Something has been stuck in our throats for a very long time.
Maybe we should have seen it coming, but we were too busy

waiting for you to pick up the phone.
Pick up the phone. Please.

A cherishing of things we previously had not seen.
Look, we want to say. Look at this. But you don’t look.

The night sighs itself over our bodies.
The phones ring themselves to sleep. The music dies down.

All of the words happen here.
We want more & more of everything, even though

it will not bring us back to the nothing you found.
There are so many ways freedom translates to loneliness.

Look around. This is the world without you in it.
The film still playing but no music in the background.

Somewhere, the ringing stops. Hey, you say.
Hello.

"In the first life, it starts with overripe apples, cloying as sin." (a poem for you)

Hello from gorgeous Salzburg! This is a city of endless song & bountiful negative space. Also: very pleasing colour schemes. Period architecture. Cobblestones. Gastronomy. & etc., etc., etc. There’s more, of course, so many brilliant somethings I’m too tired or too young now to put a name to, but they are magnificent & lingering on my tongue & rewriting all my poems & all my knowings & what more, really, could I ever ask for. It’s only the second stop on my Europe tour & I already never want to leave this continent.

But first, a quick crackling little poem for you today, in between my various haltings & wanderings! This one travels far away from Salzburg, back to my childhood in chap-lipped suburbia: a piece about apples & moving surfaces, about knives & crawlspaces, about gods, girlhood, growing up. All these stories we tell ourselves that bring us back to life. It was originally published in Occulum (one of my favourite new literary journals today!) & I so hope you enjoy it. xoxo

Origin Story 

in the first life / it starts with overripe apples, cloying as sin // a sweet & gorgeous melting / eyes closed / hysterical laughter like radio static / sweetness scarring the back of my throat // my mother braids my hair in the morning before school / & gives me the tools to survive: / this is how you boil water / this is how you give someone the finger / these are the only two things you will ever need to know // as a child i recall my stomach must die before all else / this is the simplest story / & therefore the truest / a slice of unfinished apple pie on the table / a plastic fork / a metal knife // my mother drives me home & asks, her voice a landscape marred by sorrow, / what i learned in school today / her grief is the first soft thing i will ever touch // we exist in so many places that never bother to learn our names / but this house has a new nickname for me every day / a new beginning to my obituary / a new taste of suburbia to choke down / & kindness without ulterior motive // on the table, the apple pie aches to taste a tongue // my mother & i stand on the driveway, becoming // even now, in this framed beginning, / i am not a god / but i am a girl, at least // a girl / a time to exhale / a preplanned ghost town / a pot of boiling water // i turn down the radio / i fall asleep with cinnamon stuck in my mouth // in this place where my mother has forgotten how to cry / & it smells of evening / all afternoon