Poem by Kylie Hough & Art by Yukiko Nakashima
Do you find it hard to write?
Pick up a pencil and a notepad, I mean. Bleed lead onto paper. Commit to getting words on lines on pages. Lie through another twitchy night between sweat-soaked sheets. What is the point in changing linen if you’re only going to soil it again the next time you see stars? Grab a handful of skin anywhere on your body and pinch. Until red and white blotches of skin appear that nobody will see. Sodium bicarbonate will clean your tiles and your teeth. Why do you need clean teeth? I loved eight journals until their spines cracked crossing thirteen countries and an Icelandic lover. They sit in a drawer now, discarded bricks used for a house I never built. Eleven sinking stones sit on my doorstep ready to submerge me in a river that stretches to the sea. Preach with me. The dress with the deep pockets is on sale at K-Mart and just when you think your stones are the heaviest, four siblings in Gaza lose their lives to a bomb blast started by adults sworn to protect them. Too many funerals surface in sad stories. The psychologist sees the dents in you and shows more of her teeth because that’s what therapists do. I wear nude sunscreen and forget to apply deodorant in my attempts to close the gap between bullshitting and truth-telling. Someone somewhere writes a scene a day and says that works for them. Wasn’t that me? Without words you don’t get off the floor. Memory is a particular kind of torture. On hands and knees red fingers rubbed raw in a frenzy of back and forth charged with countless renditions of I don’t know why you would tell anyone that. I will-I won’t-just don’t. Without sentences you can’t breathe. Ameer, Adam, Muhammad, Ismaeel Al-Tanani—all the Lexapro in the world can’t make this devastation okay. Inside paragraphs I’m lost, but never for long enough. Pills gather momentum like boulders in an avalanche set to wake up a quiet bunch, a convalescent, acquiescent and stupefied lot. Who would keep believing if you knocked conscience into their skull with a sledge hammer? Then all the Valium dissipates. Like lemon in lemonade you’re left with a colourless, odourless, tasteless prison your blood streaming black with sarcasm. Don’t thank yourself for the way poetry exposes festering sores steeped in disappointment. Instead, use it to be present in the dark cold in which you will inevitably find yourself with a dead child’s name on your lips. Then puff up red. Shock it back to life. Write like you dream, dread, deny. This is what you do. This is all you’ve got.
“Letter in Origami”
“Letter in Origami”
“Giggling Sound of Bicycles”
Kylie Hough is a UNE Arts graduate living on Yugambeh land. In 2015 Kylie received the Lucy Elizabeth Craigie Award, the Richard B Smith Memorial Prize, and the Australian Federation of Graduate Women Inc. (AFGW) NSW (Armidale) UNE ARTS AWARD. She was a finalist in the Gertrude Stein Award in Fiction 2018 and long listed in Room Magazine’s 2021 Creative Nonfiction Contest. Kylie is a grateful recipient of a 2021 CA/ASA Award Mentorship (Fiction) and is working on a collection of essays. Her work is published or forthcoming in literary journals including Litro Magazine, Verity La, Posit, Burrow, The Canberra Times, Other Terrain, Antithesis, and The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts.
Yukiko Nakashima was born in Hiroshima, Japan and came to the United States at age of thirteen. She received an MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in 2003. Her work has been shown in group and solo exhibitions in the United States, United Kingdom and Japan including at Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Altoona, PA, The Clemente, New York, JCAL Arts Center, Jamaica, NY, Fairleigh Dickinson University Art Gallery, Teaneck NJ, Foggy Bottom Arts Center, Washington DC, Evergreen Museum & Library, Baltimore, MD, The Visual Arts Center, Summit, NJ, Fieza Projects, London, White Column, New York and hpgrp Gallery, New York, just to name a few. She was also a curator for a group show called “Emotionally Coded” at the Clemente, and a resident artist at Cooper Union Summer program in New York City. She will be joining another residency at The Pouch Cove Foundation in Canada as an invited artist this summer. She currently lives and works in New York City.
Broken Language for Narratives of Madness oil series: oil on canvas.