Last week on Twitter I asked readers to share: what are the best lines that they’ve ever written? The responses ranged from funny to heartfelt to aching, all full of warmth & mellifluous truth.
Today I wanted to share some of my favourites with you. If you particularly enjoy any of the answers below, don’t forget to click on the links by each writer’s name to access their web presence & experience more of their work.
Dear readers: what is your favourite line you’ve ever written?
My own: "I love you in the way good people kill spiders who do them no harm." / "The most beautiful poem is the absence of mothers who forget." / "Having a body can only be an act of hospitality."
Haley Campbell: “Become a vessel full of fire, / more scald than skin / and crack the concrete everywhere you go.”
Maura Lee Bee: “Verse like a rap stuck in God’s teeth.” / “My face will be held in the light, chin resting in the sun’s palm. It will be so warm there, begging to be caught in the riptide, yearning to be swallowed whole.”
Quinn Lui: "i want to be something better than immortal, so i bite summer down to the bone and it still smiles with the same sweetness." / "august is a raised voice demanding a body, only frustrated by its failure." / "i never learned how to praise a thing / without calling it perfect."
Carly Racklin: “I can’t see the future but I can see this page.” / “Sometimes, grief feels like God. / Everywhere, all the time, never too / busy for me. Except it’s a God I never prayed to / and the only miracle it knows / is how to resurrect every rotten thing / I bury.”
Q: “Tongue meets palate / meets the teeth that bar its cage.” / “I close my eyes and turn to dust.”
Gabrielle Alexa Noelle: “I thought that avoiding bisexual behaviors would make me a heterosexual person. I tried to ignore half of me but soon discovered that was impossible.”
Madison McSweeney: “This city is a street-corner flasher / disemboweling himself daily.” / “End of an era. / All downhill from here. “Many years ago, in a darker age of a dark planet, there was a Crow. He was not always a Crow, of course, but that will come later.”
Rebekah Call: “No one ever told me the devil wore a neck tie.”
Jude Valentin: “I am alone in the sea and the waves seem to form hands and push me under. My salvation becomes my enemy before my very eyes.” / “It was you & the idea that being with me made it easier. But you never stopped to think if my life would be harder. Now I'm not a martyr.”
Kristyn Carter: “After years and years of consuming white cishet media, I didn't realize that I could write someone like myself as the main character of my novel.”
Margaret: “the life cycles of stars and zits are exactly the same and don’t you forget it.” / in 2018, davy jones uploads his heart onto a flash drive and throws it into a public fountain.” / “when you kill a thing, it’s just good manners to watch it die.”
L. Cortez: “how i swell like altar fruit plucking itself.” “there is only Him / that fasts, that feasts, / forty days, forty nights and every shred of sky / in between His teeth.” “each step is a leap out of my body into a carcass pronounced girl.”
Adriana Martinez: “I was named after the sea, and the sea does not forgive.” / “I was so busy looking at the stars at night that I just stumbled upon you in broad daylight.” / “A body wasn’t made to suffer in silence.”
Lake Vargas: "I don't want to have to be a bird anymore." / "I'm too warm to need your jacket." / "I wreathed please around your mouth, breathed pleas around your mouth." / "Come and cull me from the world." / "If I kiss a girl, my father will call me home or a bad name."
Kat Giordano: “what you need must be begged from some brink or another into existence, a punchline at the end of pain, like being waterboarded by your own life.” / “the TV’s blue backlight makes your thin skin shine like a Ziploc you can stare right through to your bones.”
Hope Henderson: “I thought mostly of my mother, / and those who had hurt her: / her brother, my father, / the new suitor / with the beard and fur / and sometimes of my own pain, / which hung heavy / from my child body like / my mother’s evening gown— / the ridiculous, black length of it / pooling at my feet.”
R.Y. Leanne: “constantly freeing myself from cages and prisons that demand i become something other than who i am.” / “there's still beauty in storms and hope for love at the heart of turmoil. no one should stop blooming because winter arrives.”
Ky: “being human is realizing you're more fallacy than logic.” / “i am the last flame left in this god forsaken heart.” / “you cannot CTRL ALT DEL your way out of clinical depression.” / “i can write in 3 languages but still can’t find words to introduce myself to my next love poem.”
Claire Frances Sullivan: “Time isn't made of rectangles or lines / and you'll find that it's humans who attempt to define / the corners. / You keep making corners. / Stop living in corners.”
Emma-Louise Adams: "how did you know you made it? and can you see the future? is it bright, and is it glowing? and am I in it at all?"
Mathilde Meist: “Everything is shadows and flashes of light, smoke and fog mixed together in an iridescent mist.” / “He was a rose and the voice, a harsh cold wind, blew each petal away.” / “All around me, beauty that provides no comfort.”
Jene E. Edwards: “There are sunsets that burn into your memories because of their colors, and then there are sunsets that are amazing because of where you were. And who you were with. The colors in the sky weren’t anything memorable, but it was the memory of the place and time that were stunning.”
Miri Muerte: "He had been drowning in Max's sex appeal for too long, and it was finally time to break the surface and take a deep breath." / "A fire, he thinks. That’s what she is. Anything she touches she consumes, and he’d kill to be nothing but ashes in her pale hands."
McKenna Hight: “My no was a river, so he built a dam.”
Kristin Garth: “His floor, / third story, looks down on trees like he does you. / He makes you bleed. You focus on the view.” “She learns it all through peepholes, the way / you do when you’re a girl.” “A solitude of secrets insects utter / since she first saw death in darkness flutter.”
Andy Winter: “hardness is a steel-spined corset i bought off Aliexpress with army pay.” / “remember that you are comma curling into continuity, that you must pause to keep going.” / “but how can one sink an entire constellation with two hands?”
Sarah Battison: "my mind is a waiting room full of patients yet to be seen." / "i am an ember of a slowly dying fire." / "writing is my self harm—the metaphorical need to cut myself open and bleed."
Kwan-Ann Tan: “A pile of bricks buries our view of the rain; ruin separated from us by a rusty window frame.” / “punch-drunk on our imagined / space as we drive down to the country at / midnight, a careless grin crushing my windpipe / with want.”
Hannah: “like i’m stuck between a rock and a hard place and i’m trying to save the rock.” / “you’re the orange haze of street lights through fog that i confused for a sunrise.” / “i am as strong as diamonds and just as beautiful.”
Aiya Sakr: “I see his roosts in my mother / the way, silhouetted, her bones catch the sun.”
Ben Togut: “as if I was taming this feral heart. As if / I was extracting thorns from roses, / unable to exhume true beauty without an ounce of pain.”
Alyssa Hanna: “despite all of this deafening silence, i will continue to sing.” / “i never used the microscope but i cultivated a petri dish: it is a family of bacteria, searching for nerves to sever.” / “even i know that some gods end up dying.” / the forest that consists of two single trees.”
Ryena: “but how am I supposed to / water down an insult / when you say it in Allah’s name?”
Armiya: “i grew up on those fingers sticky like modern placenta honey glue to my everything wrong.” / “boy jaw with gentle hands.” / “bruises like stickers you get after seeing the dentist.” / “six feet two of love song.”
Patty Blanchfield: "I cut myself on shards of light glistening in the fragile facets of my fingertips in this fading dusk, borrowed from a dying sun I only barely recognized as something that no longer belonged to me."
Kate Garrett: "but land and sea and turning / go a long way to soothing / the imp's itch in my veins." / "spiders come to grace / with strange dexterity." / "hear psalms sing through my veins / in my great-grandmother's voice"
Prince Bush: “taint a private puzzle, make me public / pants, paints from pigeon blue to pink blue / light-lavender-perked passion.”
Alex Verman: “I wish that we were seen as people, not symbols; as artists, not art; as statements, not questions; as lighters, not ash.” / “That you can be anything and anyone, and that you deserve to be able to do so safely—not because you've passed some test, but because you are alive. Because you want it.” / “As writers, there is no one among us who is not guilty of oversimplification.” / “It's astonishing that cisgender writers have simultaneously reported this subject to death and left it completely unstudied.”
Sprout Conner: “When the wood falls through, tell your children to use your back for stairs.” / “Slurs are overcooked noodles / flung against our refrigerator door.”
N.V. Lott: “There is no capacity for this surrender.”
Ada Pelonia: “It’s the missing parts that suck the air out of me, the puzzle pieces I can’t just pierce on an open space.”
Jessie Lynn McMains: “Boy who Jaggered, pouted / his hellmouth.” / “At nineteen I was a brilliant thief, a rustbelt Robin Hood.” / “In that haunted loft in Soho that February / when the world ended every night, I listened to / the rattle of the ghosts.”
Jade Mitchell: “praise all the girls inside of me: / the ones not worth saving, the ones / who thought they’d never make it this far.”
Prarie M. Faul: “I am trying to speak in this way that gives me nothing, holds no quarter, keeps our heads afloat.” / “Look me in the teeth when I tell you I am drawing a line and leaving a trip wire of cut hair across it.”
Catarine Hancock: “learn how to love me right & you can scoop entire oceans out of me.” / “you are my final cadence. the last chord after years of halves.” / “is this a love poem or an apology letter? i can’t tell the difference between them anymore, mostly because i love you, but i’m sorry for it.”
Jason D. Ramsey: “I watched as levers churned out bleak horizons, as pulleys separated welders’ hands from wrists, as spinning mules spooled sin in shadow factories against grain, mill, seed—artifacts lost when day yielded to night but night never relinquished to day.”
Catherine: "why would you believe brown sugar eyes without flashing a light for the gold?" / "you're writing in a journal that doesn't belong to you and it feels / betrayed." / "Dear future lover, nice butt ;) / was it you who said, I want to give her things like / blowjobs and self esteem?"
Jessica Ginting: “We replicate ourselves like newspapers from a worn-out printing press. Each / generation a new headline that spells out old mistakes.” / “You're like a type of new dream: far from asleep, awake at the seams, I can feel you, what you're made of, it's more than just futile wishing.”
Luna Valentine: “Have you heard / screams so loud / they shook / a former goddess / to her core? / That was Space Girl, / when she finally realized / she didn't know / the way back home.” / “did they tell you the story / of the girl who brought an entire / u n i v e r s e / to its knees? / how she controlled the stars / but she was too powerful / so they damned her to earth / and left her behind. / that was space girl. / she was once a goddess, / now she's an enigma / even to herself.”
Mag: “little flakes of snow stick to my jacket but not to the ground & i wonder if i am colder than the pavement. my heart is certainly as heavy as concrete.” “the push & pull of our respective strengths & weaknesses makes waves in the mysterious ocean of the universe we are a part of.”
Alana Hoskins: “i am the inside and outside of the city that left you.” / “i watched my lover break the jaw of his lover.”
Katherine DeCoste: “i think of resurrection itself implicit in the soil.” / “this is the way that I want you: sweaty and covered in blood / starstruck, cast in blue skylight.” / “the sky will both kiss and carry me in her womb / round, wet, warm, and soft.”
Zara Williams: “the closest you ever get to happiness is when you / have your hands planted in the dirt, palms learning the furrows / of the field like the dip of a girl’s spine.”
Maria Bavishi: “I’ve forgotten everything but the stale bitter-sharp wintergreen of cigarettes and mints that lingered on her breath.” / “We stumble through, bumping into walls of words and shifting thoughts, that emerge, uninvited, to redecorate the fabric of our reality.”
Yilin Wang: “Her lack of anything gave her the freedom to become anybody.” / “Exchange vows with soul-mate avatars, give birth / to yourself with a mouse click, shatter / the screens between hearts and robots.”
Tianna G. Hansen: “Do not be the moth / flocking toward destruction. / Be the flame withstanding pain / burning bright / to fend off the darkness / with your sheer light.” / “The calm before the storm / is electricity flickering in her eyes.”
Kanika Lawton: “i went back to the ocean and asked her / how many bones have i dug up with my graveyard mouth / and all she could say was / you're a cemetery just like me.” / “There is no word for gentle on this tongue.” / “Find god in the line of your jaw and break it.”
J. Andrew Briseño: “Everything will be alright, because alright’s how we'll call what it'll be.”
Sophie: “He will want to see himself painted with words in the colors I created.”
Kins: “pink is what happens when you water down women.” / “so you thread yourself out through the chaos of fistfights and handcuffs with a mouthful of stolen holiness.” / “for some lifetimes are longer than others and infinities come tightly packed inside each other.”
Julia: “I am most girl when I am least like my mother.”
Amy Marvin: “Though the curio is alienated from its living context, the remnants of its world and history imbues the object with its curious character. It is marked as out of place and out of time, and through this rupture draws curiosity into its orbit.”
Talissa Febra: “is love anything more than learning how to swallow a sea before asking someone to swim?”
S.K. Grout: “The sky turns palimpsest as the minutes pass, / written cobalt, indigo, slate, black, exquisite and / memory-fusing.” / “I pronounce my heart / an open wound that disobeys.” / “I am the one who washes their bodies/ My last word, whispered to you / complicit.”
Khaya Osborne: “the boys from suburbia / cannot love you. you are not the same / color as forever.” / “why do you want to love me now that it doesn’t matter?” / “the moon eats / hot cheetos and pickles for breakfast. / doesn’t give a fuck what / you / have to say about that.”
Jack Alferio: “the curve of my spine has nothing on the curve of your smile.”
Caroline Grand-Clement: “i dissolve in the / bedframe of every picture i do not / want to keep.” / “i throw pennies at you until you turn copper blue.” / “& how do you define something you can't bear to taste again? / my teeth are falling out & i am trying to be there still.”
Zofia: “i am dying the to be the right type of poison.”
Tada: “Time exists in a latitude so boundless that you’d be able to spend your life returning to the routine that you used to be doing all your life before the pain happened.”
John Mauel Arias: “There’s a special bond between two relatives who have never met & will never meet. A curiosity of each other, yet the inevitable instinct of familiarity. That one comes from the other. That one carries the other in her veins. The one who has died still lives as long as the other does.”
Umang Kalra: “waiting / for the crash of jupiter against its walls. i carry it in my lungs.” / “nobody will ask the apocalypse what / language it speaks.” / “and so I bled / from two places that day.”
Samantha Slupski: “When I talk about my family, it feels like I am telling ghost stories.” / “They say in the wild, if enough prey turns against that which tries to eat it, then the prey has a chance in defeating it. & that is all we’re trying to do, turn against that which has named us prey.”
Von Thompson: “Something in me always compassed north.”
Frank: “the single most devastating alarm clock in the galaxy wants to learn how to love.” / “this vacuous expanse: a response to the afterglow that comes with the impression of great sex rocketed off the belt of asteroids on the next left.”
Amy Hughes: “You did not feel the oceans drain around you and, / closed-eyed and screaming, / crawl out / through a crack in the world / to believe yourself / anything less / than invincible.”
Sarah Nichols: “In our secret language, we float upside down.” / “I move through sickness like a dancer.”
Lindsey: “Her eyes baptismal in the way they shutter for sleep, my eyes a door I will always keep open for her.” / “Forgiveness is a fragility—a burden buried, frail bones in a sunken dust storm.” / “I never belonged here, but I belong to her, and that makes her a church.”
Mickey: “The beams danced across the walls, but something seemed wrong. Like dancing a slow, lyrical ballet to Flight of the Bumblebee, it just didn’t fit.”
Sean Glatch: “He wants me to make the sign of the cross as if I haven’t been nailed to it.” / “I want to be both the deer and the headlights, sometimes.” “This summer, / I turned my memory into a slaughterhouse / because I was never taught to forgive.”
Emma: “I cry as if there is a thunderstorm inside me. I let out enough tears to cause a flood.” / “Even though the sky is bright, every new beginning looks horribly dim.”
Tasman Kekai: “it is okay to be missing some pieces, to walk through this world with your heart in your hands, bleeding.”
June Gehringer: “I walk around all day thinking: / I’m gonna die / in the universe / you loved me in.”
Lydia Havens: "To be called brave by someone you don't know is to wonder if you wear survival like a half-burned dress." / "In the right lighting I look like someone who has never worn their own body / like a stone-filled coat." / "Bless all the cliches I am learning to love because I like being a happy person more than I like being a good writer."
Irene Vázquez: “Can I be honest? Just this once? I have never wanted love as much as I have wanted to walk into a room and be the only source of light.”
These responses have been edited for length & clarity.
Thank you so much to those who shared their favourite lines with me—both on this list & not. It’s such a joy to get a taste of the incredible words you’re spinning, brilliant & bold, full of redamancy & revolution.
If you don’t follow me on Twitter yet, you should do that for a chance to be featured in the next compendium of reader answers. Until then: tell me the best lines you’ve written in the comments?