Kristiana Reed’s pre-print review of SMITTEN

Thank you to the incredible Kristiana Reed for this advance review of SMITTEN, Indie Blu(e)’s latest poetry anthology which will be published this Fall. 

Candice Daquin and the editors at Indie Blu(e) Publishing have worked their magic once more in raising a powerful chorus of voices.

Daquin is a woman who has always sought to empower others from the first moment I became acquainted with her work and her nature. I also cannot think of a better person and writer to spearhead a body of work which celebrates love between two women. 

The writers and styles within this collection, which Daquin has woven seamlessly together, are varied – eclectic and powerful yet with the same, strong undercurrent coursing through every piece that this is what love looks like.

It is possible people will read the sub-heading of SMITTEN and assume this is an exclusive collection; only accessible if you are woman who loves or has loved a woman. But, what is truly wonderful is this isn’t true at all. Instead, SMITTEN holds and nurtures love poems to be read and enjoyed by anyone. After all, for centuries, we have consumed and enjoyed love poems written about women, by men. Why should the fact that the poet is a woman cause the response to be any different? 

‘Testimony’ by Carolyn Martin is one of the best examples of this. The nature of love and relationships does not suddenly change if it is not heterosexual; the essence of loving someone beyond belief even on the days they annoy you to distraction, remains. 

However, even though SMITTEN is not exclusive, it must be recognised as an anthology paving a new way for literature. All of the writers are female and all of the subject matter is female, lesbian, bisexual and more. Pieces such as ‘Lesbian’ by Avital Abraham and ‘Pulse’ by Melissa Fadul drive home why Daquin’s decision to create a collection like this is needed and welcomed. 

Too often we sideline LGBTQ+ work as a genre of its own, when it should be mainstream; literary works which are written by people to be enjoyed by people, no matter what their race, sexuality, gender and/or religion. 

Yet, until this happens, I applaud Daquin and Indie Blu(e) Publishing for brazenly making a stand. Until labels are but words and not identifiers, it is important that writers like those in this collection share their voices and stories, ever-lasting love and heartbreak, and their hopes and fears, to remind the literary world they will be heard, no matter what the response may be. 

Kristiana Reed August, 2019.

SMITTEN will be available this Fall via all good book sellers. For bulk orders, ARC copies or more information please contact Candice Daquin or Indie Blu(e) directly or go to the SMITTEN Facebook website

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For Halo

My debt rests in your fur

as they light it

and it burns

and your form shrinks

from this world

your black and white paw limp against my clutching

fingers wishing you here

those images are cookie cut into my mind

called intrusive thoughts and flash-backs

I know them well

they are not my friend as you were my friend

I imagine what you feel and then recall

you no longer feel anything

though that does not seem right

without religion I am left unknowing

where you land next or if you will

awaken in paradise or remain slumbering

whether sleep or a void, if we can truly leave

and have nothing of ourselves remain

but ash and debris

it seems impossible that you were once

jumping onto the table and making me laugh

with your antics

only to be nowhere and gone eternal

I may not possess sufficient faith

to build castles in the sky but

your energy stays like stillness in

this empty house and from the corner of my eye

I still see your shadow slink just as

my grandmother’s voice is pitch perfect in my head

is that imagination or wishful?

Or do ghosts haunt us willing supplicants?

A bouquet of delusion to soothe our empty

arms or

will you live forever within me? And when I take

my turn at the Ferris wheel

our nothingness will reside near one another

I like the idea, all I have loved will

mingle as returned starlight in the ether

and touch one another with reminder

for being alone or worm food is

a cold dinner companion I wish not

to believe in

even if God turns his head from me and always has

for his man-made lack of female

and my rib is long and sticks into my gut

reminding me I am ever every man’s equal

and will never lay down to those dull prescriptions

of what constitutes truth from a man’s tongue.

Your fur was thicker than all the cats here

who grew up hot and listless on porches

you came with me in a pink plastic box

obscene in its garishness we laughed

putting it through customs

the harried lady at flight desk remarked

well there he goes as you were taken

hand delivered, to the pit of the plane

and I worried because I wanted you to be

on my knee but no madam, I’m afraid for long haul

he has to ride in cargo and don’t worry

few of them get upset, as if she were crouched among you knowing this

this seemed false as so many things do

when big decisions linger like absent friends

at the periphery of moments

too quick, too big, for staying still

briefly I wondered; Should I really be moving?

to this strange country I do not yet know and

burning this bridge indefinitely

it felt as wrong as right ever was and I stood

in the airport watching the thin man take you

behind a curtain and then as you were on your way

so was I.

You see …

I took my cue from you

quite often

and of the two of us when we landed

I think you looked less bedraggled

whilst I fought with immigration because one of my papers

was not ‘just so’ and they called and fussed because

immigrants are not very welcome in any country

and annoy those whose jobs it is to ensure

smooth sailing

and when we reunited

on different soil with the sound of cicadas or crickets

I was not sure in those days

you were hot against my grandmothers blanket

and had peed because they don’t let animals

out to the bathroom at 30,000 feet

which was exactly how I felt, hot and wet and stinking

at the same time, in this odd place where

people were outgoing and spurned shyness or other

attributes we both possessed

with aplom

following our dreams or maybe just mine

as your dreams were about mice or pigeons and later

lizards and snakes

as you learned the ways of the desert

and perhaps the tenor of your meow changed

to reflect the inflection of your adopted country.

It may seem easier but it is not easy for any of us

who come by boat, plane or smuggle, to

lands not our own, we each bring with us

that belly full of ache

and you were always able to

soothe mine with your purr and ever

reminder of our start beneath colder skies and

smaller streets with littler houses and narrow

rooms where we knew our place and here

we could only speculate or clumsily test

our sea legs against

the strangeness of being

with mistake and estrangement

our sole friends quite a while.

Unable even to drive I walked you down the road

for your first vet check and people gaped

from their large cars at the floundering Europeans

walking where no-one walks and everyone uses

big trucks to go one mile and purchase a giant

sippy cup and some Ding Dongs, things with

names that sound fun and 40 additives

my kind of humor and banter lost against

surge of habit, the vet seemed surprised I

had carried you rather than driven and tut-tutted

at your lack of dental hygiene

but remarked how beautiful your thick fur was

and how cats in these parts tend to have

snake skin, we all laughed at that, even you

cast a fish eye his direction like you

possessed the real secrets.

I remember those exploits and driving to Canada on another

exodus when stateless we began again

another groove in our fitful recording

the deep snow and your paw prints leading

me nearer and further

like ice fish we swam in our odd circumstance

always together, staring out stranger windows like

spectators at our own fair ground

in cold you slept beside me and purred

in your sleep to the sound of icicles

warming and falling into snow the

sky a heavy weight holding its breath

eventually we returned to the place of infernal heat

and sizzling side walks where no one but us

and straggly weeds dared to step and the years wound like

lost yarn beneath our odd foray

until you were old and fragile

and I barely noticing because I did not want to

believe you could quit being the little cat

in the pink plastic box glad to see me at the

first airport in our new world.

It was naive or immature of me to forget

cats lives do not echo ours and mine seemed

suddenly far too long and yours bitterly short

a terrible echo of inequality I did not

have the strength to imagine losing you

when together we always were.

Even people who wrote said; ‘Dear Candy, Dear Halo’

as if they could see the join of your fur and my

burning skin against the other

I told myself I would be there when they

sent you to that place I could not follow

despite knowing in my mind the terrible pictures

would roam long and unbidden for many years

to look into your eyes and remind you how much you mean

to me and always how I will look for you

until we are reunited and then I expect

all this will be mere bad dreams and

again we can go forward, or side ways or

whatever direction the after world takes us

but please together, is all I want

for with you gone, I wait without watch

an absence greater than anguish

for you were my best friend in this lonely world

assuaging the hard edges and frayed corners

we came here together and still I am

more lost without you than when I arrived

for your bright eyes and happy tail

gave me courage Halo and ever shall I

look for you coming into the kitchen in

the morning with your half howl of greeting

starting my day and ending it with

putting you to your bed

never once thinking there could be a time

when you were not and I still went on.

Aristotle said it best; a relationship is

two bodies one soul

that is real love

and we are floundering when absent from one another

like the ice fish when it warms up

and water is all but gone.

Ode to E — hijacked amygdala

I used to turn down drugs with frequent kiss of teeth from 13 years old when they came in the sticky palms of acne faced kids at parties all twinkly and bold, I said I didn’t need them, my teddy and my hope were salvage enough from any monsters, what need had I of medicated […]

via Ode to E — hijacked amygdala

Pasted in absolution

photo

are lesbians all extroverts?

or has the press of being confined

so many years

caused them to burst at the seams

when introduced to

cold water? And social media?

Wake Up. Wake Up. Sleeping Bird.

Stepping out I felt

scathed, unprepared, strange, curled at the edges

not comprehending the pool cues and

darts carelessly flung

nor wished to grow my nails long

and lay back a pillow princess

nor an intellectual dyke with accolade

my mom said to me as a kid

you like to be different

it wasn’t a compliment

she meant it as an insult and loathed

the trace of my existence

being several minorities you begin

to collect them like badges of pride

though i was not proud

of being periphery to my tribe

if indeed these women were my ilk

they did not feel like were

they seemed rather barbarous and hateful

if truth be told

or worse, indifferent and with such

secret codes I never learned how

to impress upon them my membership

much as i kept trying

my lily white Sephardi leg did not dip well

into the queer melting pot

my ink stained hands and penchant

for sensitivity over brevity

left most rolling their eyes in askance

like the cows at the back of the field where i grew up

wondering then if i were normal

or doomed to be different

something in our blood, our skin, our freckled creed

sets us apart

it isn’t left-handed-ism

burnt toast, dyscalculia

shy labias or closed boxes of wild flowers

trailing their haunted perfume through your hands

or even, a repulsion of dykes

chalking their conquests up like men

gloating over how much pussy they had

it isn’t that I cried over

certain novels (Anna Karenina) and not others (Rubyfruit Jungle)

or did not get my (polka-dot) panties in a wad

when KD Lang sang or Ellen

waved her plaid-clad-arms

I hated Orange Is The New Black (but Wentworth was good)

I was never a follower of trends (except those plastic sandals you could buy

in Dollar Tree and with lip-gloss look pretty fabulous at 12)

nor adroit at fitting in just because

of one thing in common or a noon day pink vagina-hat march

there were

too many that didn’t fit

anywhere

satellites without orbit

except maybe, briefly, with you

you, who also didn’t fit in

couldn’t endure small-talk, the color yellow

or back yard get-togethers with damp burgers

and without a glass of wine, found yourself unable to resist

hiding in the abandoned tree house

smoking a purloined woodbine

something about your short nails and full lips

isn’t that what they always say?

see? I subscribed to one lesbian myth

and maybe

if we stay long enough

legs swinging against dusk

fireflies eating holes in the universe

we’ll not feel so cut out of errors

and pasted in absolution

for all we are supposed to be and not

anything much but this

lovely sway in darkness

Closed curtains in day time

grayscale woman in bed

The dust of you is still impregnated in my palm

I run you through my hair, over my cheeks, down

my neck, between my rising breasts

like washing without water

our hair pressed into the sheets as you

pushed me deeper with your own weight

our magnetism inflaming the very air

your scent is my obsession

carried in my skin like rare perfume

only you possess

I hold you after you are gone

in a thousand ways

words have never touched you

in the darkness when I say

the silhouette of you drives me wild

I do not have fingers enough to

press into your skin and leave my

indent of love

you smile a weary smile, for you are

already thinking of other things

and I am only building desire to

a higher pitch

as if tasting you once sets me aflame

and I burn again and again

with the memory

lighting the way to never ceasing

if there were a hundred years

I’d still be aching for your touch

my thirst

never sate

a need to climb inside you

and fuse into one

reaching across

where you lay

the outline still visible

in the weak light coming through

closed curtains in day time

 

SweptAway

10585_Shadow-iPhone-Photos-26_w1120Here in the quiet room

you can fool yourself for a moment

joy has returned

her skin like oranges left in sun

narrow feet catching dust, turning in their little arc

you want to tell her you notice everything

as if it were your job to record the very sum

using nothing but words and build from alphabet

exact reasons you still

catch your breath

yet for all the music beneath her skin

a familiar yet unfamiliar person within

she has been long gone just as she remains

a shadow against a wall elongated

like places you once lived in

turn strange

taking one more look around

before you leave

key on the mantle

watching tulips breathe

their redolent mystery

as the color of her eyes

was never a word to capture

something free then

flying

out of the window she left ajar

that day she stopped being herself

and you could return in a 100 years

just for the smell clinging to her neck

how she feels beneath her clothes

places you know like a hidden map

joy solved in one tightly held hand

like a sailor lost at sea

when she is far and away

diving for pearls in hope

one will be as black and magical

as her iris caught by car light

watching you, seeing nothing

even the whispers of who she once was

swept away

the room now bare and empty

readying for new people

running your fingers along the memory

heart in throat

seeing her turn

that beautiful smile

before she climbs

the narrow stairs

FortuneTeller

People didn’t care

Just like with the Nightingale

The dead bird outside Starbucks

Didn’t warrant consideration

His feathers mottled by hot pavement

I felt

Bad I hadn’t noticed at first

But I’d been watching you walk

And recalling the depth of your coffee eyes

Whom of us lovers, has time

For dead birds

Finally a man thinks he’s brave to kick

Feathered corpse off to the side

Indicative of these times

I thought of the Happy Prince

Giving away his gold and jewel eyes

Enlisting a little bird to pluck

His riches to give to the poor

How I read that in school sitting

Elbow to elbow with sloe eyed kids who

Scratched their dry elbows raw

And the very same week we came across a dead bird

Its grave still beneath the weeping willow

Fastened by a Palm Sunday cross we’d kept unbroken in a book

Where children learn almost by hook and rook

Whether to practice compassion

Or not

I said to you; Oh look, it’s a poor dead bird

I wonder why it died? As if flung from the sky

And your eyes were hurt just as I knew they would

Because you are a grown child

I’d be bound to love

And we’d bury birds together

In every place they fell

Even if only a few care

Beginning in the playground

Watch them

Children will show you

Their future character.