United States

23 neurotic crows in a recycled flesh suit
lee | he/they | 18 | intp-t | lgbtq+
est. march '20
CA alum summer '20
poetry and spoken word competition winner '20
wtw review issue 2.2
peer review summit facilitator march '21

Message to Readers

thank you all for your kind words!! i’m very excited

you will always be from alabama

May 1, 2020

you are from the South. the South has taught you many things. 
you have learned the seasons are “hot” and “not” and there is no logic to them. 
you have learned the sky in July glows electric blue, the sun burns white-hot, and you get dizzy if you stay out too long.
you have learned mosquitos are not to be messed with. 
you have learned the mosquito hawks that eat the mosquitos are your best friend, and you have learned not to be afraid of them. 
you have learned blueberries straight from the bush are juiciest, jalapenos from the back garden are the hottest, and corn grown yards from where you eat is the sweetest. 

you have learned there is both good and bad about where you live. 
you have learned the stubbornest people on the planet are Southern. 
you have learned “Southern Hospitality” only goes so far.
you have learned you cannot escape your birthright. 
you have learned, in the South, you cannot change. you are stagnant, like the stiff air in the middle of June. 
you will always be your father’s little girl. 
you will always be the one “who doesn’t like girly stuff.” 
you will lie and dodge questions about why you don’t come to Girl Scout meetings. you and your mother will butt heads about your desire to quit. Eventually, this will taper off, but only because you stop asking. 
you will worry your relatives when you cut your hair, they will tell you they are relieved you did not shave the side of your head. you will not tell them you wanted to. 
your Catholic great-grandmother will ask you why you don’t have a boyfriend yet, you’re so beautiful. you will laugh with her awkwardly as she slaps you on the back. 
you will stutter through thank-yous when your great-uncles and aunts call you “beautiful girl” and “young lady.” every pronoun will feel like a drop of cold water on your face. there will be so many, you will pray you don’t drown.
you will feel like your family is just trying to humour you at thanksgiving and christmas breakfasts when they ask how you are doing in school, and you will stumble through a conversation you don’t feel worthy of. you will watch other people talk, easy and languid. you will feel jealous and grateful at the same time. you will wish you felt that connected, and thank your stars you are not. 
you will hate the bridal showers and baby showers you are forced to go to but your father can escape from. you will stick to him like a cowed dog when he does attend one. weddings will make you feel sick.
you will be told not to be selfish when you hide to find a moment of peace. 
you will hate seeing the pictures your relatives keep of you when you were younger. you won’t recognise the person staring back at you. you will avoid them, head tucked down. 
you will dread easter gatherings. you will panic when on the rare occasion you have to go to Mass. your single act of religious rebellion will be to burn a candle for your dead great-aunt and pray that the earth brings her spirit peace. 
you will wonder how much your mom’s sister knows when she hands you the Pride edition of Entertainment. you will thank her profusely anyway, and add it to your hidden but prized collection of queer literature.
you won’t know what to do with the makeup she gives you. you will wear it one way and feel fake, another and feel electrified. you will wash it off and turn out the lights, hiding from your reflection. 
you will wish you could accept the keys your grandfather offers you to his SUV when he notices you’re melting into the walls at a cousin’s birthday party filled with people you’ve never seen before. you wish you were allowed to drive, just to find an escape.
you will hold your breath as your grandmother thumbs through a literary magazine you have used a new name in, and you will cringe when she asks who that is, why it isn’t spelled like a girl’s name.
you will breathe a sigh of relief when no one else questions it. you will be shocked when some occasionally use it. you will wonder what they think of it, for days upon days. you wonder what they would say if you came out.
you will gravitate silently towards the family members who feel safest:  the ones who see you as your age, the ones who treat you as an equal, the ones who seem to know things. you stay near the gay cousins or the ones from exotic places like Miami, or New York, or anywhere but here. 
anywhere but here.

you cannot escape the South. 
you may leave it, but it never leaves you. 
you will always be from Alabama. 
it will catch in your skin, your bones, deep in the pits of your stomach. 
it will show in your tolerance of humidity and your intolerance of cold. 
it will slip out in words like “cotton” and the “y’all” you can’t manage to get rid of.
it will be with you in what you know, how much you know, your memories of your home.
it will welcome you with sticky arms when you return. 
you will feel like “country coming to town” whenever you leave it. you will feel very much like a fish out of water when you talk to a cute girl from Utah, compliment another from Washington on her writing. you will hope neither of them notice how anxious you are, the shakiness of your eyeliner. 
“Alabama” will always sound like a curse, a judgement heavy on your shoulders like a yoke and you cannot run from the metal plow or what you carve in the earth behind you. 
you will feel like resistance is futile. you will wish you were normal, that you don’t want to change, that you even knew how to articulate how you want to change, or how to explain that it’s less a change and more a peeling back of an old shell that doesn’t fit anymore. you will wish it felt like home.
you try to keep that spark of hope alive in your chest, the hope you can escape and change, 
because one day, it will ignite you and your old self will burn and burn and burn. you will be reborn from ash. 
you fear it, but it still dances in your daydreams, and you laugh. 
one day, you will escape.
one day, you will peel back your old shell.
one day, you will be as bright and hot as that Alabama summer sun. 
one day, you will be free. 

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  • black_and_red_ink

    Just read your interview and this wonderful poem. Congratulations.

    12 months ago
  • Deleted User


    12 months ago
  • sunny.v

    i reread this after reading your interview, and man, does this never get old. i hope you find amazing things in the future!

    12 months ago
  • poetri

    oh never mind me, just over here reading this piece again (must be a weekly occurrence by now) and i honestly just want to say how incredible it is. from the absolute bottom of my heart, that win was so well deserved. you will go so far. congrats again, man. this is incredible.
    also now that i'm fairly certain i've liked and commented on every version of this piece i'll have to stop. right? right?

    12 months ago
  • Spade

    I am definitely the one "who doesn’t like girly stuff." and "weddings will make you feel sick." Keep up your awesome writing!

    12 months ago
  • Cressida

    Like asta, I've re-read this piece multiple times, and it is jaw-droppingly amazing every. single. time. The repetition is so on point, the words flow so well, and there are no words to describe how extraordinary this piece is. Congratulations on winning!

    12 months ago
  • asta

    came back to re-read this, and holy shit. this is stunning, amazing, incredible! it's got the most wonderful rhythm to it, if this was performed, i think i would cry. congratulations!

    12 months ago
  • mmyoung7

    Absolutely stunning! You are amazing! Keep sharing the stories of your heart!

    about 1 year ago
  • holly_stuart223

    well done this is amazing like omg such a good poem like damn keep writing

    about 1 year ago
  • sunny.v

    dude congrats!! totally deserving, what a gorgeous piece!

    about 1 year ago
  • Arzu

    Congratulations! This is so beautiful and emotive.

    about 1 year ago
  • bambiamby

    WHEN I FIRST READ THIS I KNEW IT WAS GOING TO BE ONE OF THE TOP PIECES!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!! this is so well written like: w o w. keep writing!!!

    about 1 year ago
  • nelarifigueroa

    Congratulations! This is an extraordinary piece.

    about 1 year ago
  • The Midnight One

    HECK YESS YOU DID IT! I knew it I knew it!! This piece is so beautiful and so emotive I had a feeling it would win and it did! Congratulations!

    about 1 year ago
  • Sadiez

    This is an amazing piece, congrats on the win!

    about 1 year ago
  • Cheshire Cat

    this was long but good

    about 1 year ago
  • Lolo K

    Congratulations! This is a beautiful piece, and so well written!

    about 1 year ago
  • joella

    congratulations!! well deserved :)

    about 1 year ago
  • a rose

    I remember seeing this title and being like "oh so this is the one that's gonna win" and then you did!!!! Heck yeah to you bro. I also really like that someone is writing about the trials of living in the American South :/

    about 1 year ago
  • birthdaycandles

    congratulations on the win!! such a breathtaking piece! :)

    about 1 year ago
  • jun lei


    about 1 year ago
  • 130

    Congratulations!! This is such an amazing piece!

    about 1 year ago
  • Samina


    about 1 year ago
  • SunV

    Congrats on your big win!!! You deserved it!!!

    about 1 year ago
  • Wicked!

    Congratulations! This was such a well-deserved win :)

    about 1 year ago
  • Anne Blackwood

    As soon as I read this, I knew it was special, and yeah I'm obviously not the only one! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

    about 1 year ago
  • mia_:)

    Congrats!!!!! SOOOO happy for you! Yay!!!!! :D:D:D You deserve this so much! :)

    about 1 year ago
  • r|A|i|N

    ahhhhhhhh i cant believe this won!!! usually the winner of the competition is like this random piece from a random writer no one's heard of but it's unbelievable that it's you!! you deserve it so much, i'm so glad they picked it! congratulations!

    about 1 year ago
  • Deleted User

    Congratulations! You deserve to win a thousand times for this one!

    about 1 year ago
  • Ree Sethu


    about 1 year ago
  • WhispersOfGray

    Hey, congratulations! You won, good on ya!

    about 1 year ago
  • jaii


    about 1 year ago
  • lindsmariebuck

    OMG!!!!!! DID YOU SEE IT!!! YOU WON!!!! GOOD JOB!!!!!

    about 1 year ago
  • WhispersOfGray

    Very emotional. Beautifully written.

    about 1 year ago