New publication: family & fracture; second orange prose poem

“Here are the sheets pulled flat on the bed we all share, vertical stripes, thin and thick, orange, yellow, orange, yellow.”

This is a picture of my newborn with his father. My latest prose poem Baby Picture in the new issue of Platypus Press’ Wildness, is based on — you guessed it — a baby picture. I wrote this last year before I was pregnant. It is about the distance between my father and me, which is a spot on my heart too sore for me to say more about here. It is surreal to have this piece published so soon after giving birth to my first child — a child who has my face; a face I inherited from my father. My child’s relationship with his father will be very different from the one I have with mine. The long tides between families, circles broken and unbroken through time, are always on my mind but hard to write about. This piece is the closest I’ve come yet. I hope you like it.

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Two new publications: truth or something like it

kidding-kidding-jellyfish-review-di-jayawickrema

My latest flash, “Kidding, Kidding” and “Plucking Away” up at the lovely Jellyfish Review are my first (self-acknowledged) creative nonfiction-ish pubs. All my recent work is mined from my life and I used to spend a lot of time negotiating the boundaries between fiction, non-fiction, and poetry before submitting, but life and art feel too variable to worry about this anymore. I’ll say these two pieces are close to my real biography, and it is simultaneously easy and uncomfortable to see this work published. I’ve pushed myself to be more explicit in my recent pieces, and I can’t tell if the discomfort stems from “the mortifying ordeal of being known,” or if my implicit writing really is more porous, holds more space for many truths.

Maybe it’s only needless self-deprecation to say the truths of these pieces don’t feel as truthy because they are so fixed. (I know I’m really selling these publications.) Continue reading “Two new publications: truth or something like it”

New publication: family & fracture; third orange prose poem

cactus di jayawickrema matchbook lit

III.

“My eyes are shut, the insides of my eyelids are orange in the light streaming through. I’ve come to believe orange is the color of vast, unbroken love.”

My latest hybrid/prose poem, Cactus, now up at matchbook, is to my mind, the third in my loose series of “orange prose poems” as the rest of the piece troubles the opening quoted above as well as the series’ theme of family and unbrokenness.

I almost didn’t publish this piece. It’s my first explicit “personal as political” publication, and I tied myself into knots writing, editing, and submitting it. I felt guilty using some of my family’s history, which may not be mine to interpret. I felt guilty about not explicitly naming the harms I dance around. Among other things, the piece is about guilt as a stalling act. Continue reading “New publication: family & fracture; third orange prose poem”

New publication: family & fraction; first orange prose poem

I.

“Let’s say the wrapper was orange-yellow — the color of sunset on Galle Face Beach where you took me every Sunday, the color of the hibiscus growing by the tall iron gate of the last home I lived in with you.”

My favorite part of writing is learning the meaning of a piece on the long road between drafting and publication. This is partly why I hold onto pieces for awhile before submission. I wrote my latest prose poem, Let’s Say Your Arm is Long now up at Pithead Chapel, last summer. It is about my grandfather who died when I was five. My few memories of him are likely false ones. didn’t know at the time that I was writing this piece to comfort myself but it has become a comfort: a sort of lullaby to myself; an elegy to him. Through it, I’ve come to know that mourning can be a way of continuing love, that your body remembers love your mind doesn’t. I realized writing this piece in the subjunctive mood made it possible to build a frame around a loss I couldn’t otherwise grasp. Continue reading “New publication: family & fraction; first orange prose poem”

New publication: fog or cloud

entropy di jayawickrema fog or a cloud hybrid microsI didn’t think this loose hybrid micro series would find a home. The pieces felt too small, some too strange and some too colloquial, and all disconnected even though I knew the pieces were connected in a way I couldn’t articulate. I’m gratified and relieved it found a home in Entropy Magazine’s “Fog or a Cloud” series inspired by this quote from Etel Adnan: “… [images] they are pure feeling. They’re like something that calls you through a fog or a cloud.” The editor, Morgaine Baumann writes of the series: “What do you, or we, rely on our memories for? When, or are, memories accurate representations of the past? Does it matter? A little more specifically, I’m thinking, can memories be passed down genetically? Emotional/ physical traces carried from one generation to another, ultimately showing up in our writing? How can this be shown through syntax? In image? If through image, then are the images by extension also what’s being passed down?”

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New publication: (in)completeness

3 Micro-stories by Di Jayawickrema Burning House Press

Photo Credit: Simon Abrams, Unspash

Probably, a day will come when I don’t announce every new publication with a mini-essay on process but today isn’t that day. I’m proud and grateful to have my first microfiction appear in a press I just learned of and already love: 3 Micro-stories by Di Jayawickrema in Burning House Press.

There were eight years between my first publication and my second. I spent that period contending with the immigration system, and the process changed me in ways I still don’t fully understand. I didn’t write a creative word in those eight years. I do some community-based work around immigration now — in my view, immigration is a death spectrum — from actual death to death by countless cuts if you’re lucky, and I was lucky. It isn’t a coincidence that I only started writing again when I got my green card.

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New publication: holding on too long

It’s a strange feeling to publish out of step with yourself. “All Surfaces Lose Their Tension” over at Marias At Sampaguitas is my second published flash-ish piece. I drafted it years ago, before I knew what flash was. The piece was my response to a writing group prompt to “describe a kiss.” When I thought of a kiss, all I could see in my mind was an image of a meniscus — the curve of water on the surface of a cup.

Like my first published prose poem “We Know the World with Our Bodies,” it is about a raceless, faceless couple passing each other by. In the past two years of learning to write flash, I’ve edited the piece on-and-off with the generous help of readers and other writers. I learned a lot about language and my obsessions in the process, but really, the piece was as done as it was ever going to be years ago.

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New publication: finding a new form

Three years ago, I wrote a thing that wasn’t a story and wasn’t a poem. It is about a person sitting at a party watching a couple dance and thinking of someone else, which isn’t really anything. I reworked it every six months but could never get it to cohere. It’s also transparently autobiographical but I never said so when I submitted it to my writing workshop group for feedback — I think about myself and past a lot, which is always embarrassing to me, especially with a memory as slight as this. When readers asked what the piece is about, I said it’s a madeleine moment; language as mood; time as a circle. “It’s done,” a regular reader said after another redraft. It wasn’t done but I was sick of it too. I submitted it to 15 journals and was rejected 15 times.

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Grease: Character Sketch

This is a stream-of-consciousness sketch I wrote about an “off-stage” character in my short story Kirkenes, Norway (p. 95, Ginosko Literary Journal). In that great way it happens sometimes, this character, Marit, swam to the forefront of the original story and became the most interesting figure in it for me.  I imagine she is in her 30s, living in post-war Norway in the 1950s. I don’t think we could be friends, but I like her.

Grease spots were profoundly irritating to her, and her clothes were full of them. She remembered scrubbing and scrubbing; lemon juice, baking soda, hot water, cold water–still the spots. There was no way to fry without sustaining these little oily insults, and she loved to fry. Vegetables, meat, anything. Her mother thought she was helpful–cold and quiet but helpful. It’s true she did other chores, but she fried because she wanted to. There was that side to her. The part that liked to see a piece of soft meat covered in egg and flour, all white and malleable, plunged in sparking oil. It always shocked her how quickly a thing could brown. Continue reading “Grease: Character Sketch”

The hand of the spirit, or where the inspiration came and went

There is an anecdote from Werner Herzog’s 2010 documentary film Cave of Forgotten Dreams that comes back to me often. Searching for the answer to the 30,000 year old riddle on the cave wall, Herzog interviews several impassioned eccentrics. Among them is unicyclist-turned archeologist, Julien Monmey, who tells a story of how a Western ethnographer and his Aboriginal guide came across a decaying rock painting in the Australian bush. The Aboriginal, saddened by the painting’s deterioration, began to touch it up, and the ethnographer, disturbed, asked “Why are you painting?” The Aboriginal said,  “I am not painting. It is the hand of the spirit who is painting.” Continue reading “The hand of the spirit, or where the inspiration came and went”