spectral

United States

黃愛莉
| she/her | chinese american |
memory & mortality & madness
and the player dreamed;
50~ Sept. 2020

Message from Writer

good time of day gamers! i'm gonna publish something soon, i promise. if you notice pieces disappearing im probably unpublishing them to submit.

Published Work

sketches in marigold

i think marigold is the color of
childhood, or at least the color of mine. memories
dipped in deep mustard, touched
gentle amber with the passages of time.

i think marigold is the color of
innocence, or at least the charade of it. rubbing
playing cards tinted ochre under my calloused
thumbs, sticking fingers in lunchtable holes.

i think marigold is the color of
childish love, or at least the high of it. mashing
buttons on the family wii, pinky promises
sworn under glow-in-the-dark stars.

and i think marigold is the color of
a time now lost, and the aftermath of wistfulness
paints the sketches in.

welcome home (old soul)

o.
when you come to your senses, you realize you aren't exactly
standing, per say.
suspension would be a good word for it, you think,
feeling control return to your limbs.

i.
so. there you are, suspended in- what, exactly?
celestial nothingness, it seems, or celestial everything-  
what was the difference, really?
it wasn't dark, nor overwhelmingly bright, but vividly
real, terrifyingly so.
in the back of your mind, your sense of self
sharpens- for lack of a better word- and you see
your speck of being drifting amongst the wide expanse of
starlight and moondust.
(the womb of the universe was hard to describe, but one can try.)

ii.
you think, with a bittersweet taste to your mouth,
if you weren't dead, you'd probably be panicking right now.

iii.
you're waiting for someone.
you do not know this person, but you do.
a familiar sensation, this deja vu.

iv.
time is difficult when it doesn't exist; perhaps...

exercises in clarity

close your eyes and

inhale; the ground under your feet and the sky over your head. the universe cups you in its fingers, and you can feel its heartbeat in its palms because its all around you, life sings within you and you

exhale; the flourish of a flag and the graze of a finger; bodies hearts minds move as one because in the end we're one- the music thrums to a stop, and time slows to a halt for a brief beautiful moment then you're up and you're chest is proud and before the audience begins to cheer you

inhale; shift your fingers near imperceptibly, the sound ripples in the hall- the music (you're making with your hands head heart oh it moves) breaks and falls and layers in waves of rhythm; the tide breaks in unison and you

breathe.

maybe im a coward (but a coward doesnt try)

its 3 am and i think maybe maybe i should be sleeping but
im not sure i care anymore.
its me again and i might just be crazy and i might just be stupid
but i think i like it at 3 am because all of it is gone. but if its just me
and my light of my phone then theres no excuse for all those read-mes i left
behind in the haze that is life nowadays. and i promise i promise im getting 
to them someday but its just too much.

its 3 am and i think if i close my eyes when i open them my mind
is clear and im beside someone, maybe you, and maybe in this better reality
i remember how to form a smile and maybe i could even touch your hand.
i promise i promise im not weird or creepy and i know i wasnt this way before
but exhaustion catches up...

you shot my heart (i hoped to die)

tw for death- car crashes, (and a bus) falling, allergy attack . be careful.

o.
three's a crowd, that is true.
but take one more. take four,
and you have death.

i.
we live in a world that wears our humanity around our necks.
four lives, the wind whispers weighing lightly under my chest.
four lives, four deaths.
i'd almost wish for only one. one life, one death-
because then would it truly matter.

ii.
that week you didn't come to school. everyone wondered
what happened, but when you appeared the next,
you had only three of the four pins everyone wore on their shirt.
three, not four, metal pins, each shaped like a heart. 
i think i cried.

iii. 
you know, the first time you lose a life, you lose the red pin.
(then blue, white, gold.)
i lost mine shortly after yours.
you reassured me death did not hurt; but you died from falling
down (down) your stairs....

rewind

i. the first cycle
you wake to the calling of birds, a choir of
melody both haunting and lovely.
making yourself breakfast, you sit in your kitchen, watching
the news while you run your fingers on the marble counter.

the school's corridors ring the same as ever, your teachers
assign work to the same beats of song.
students file through the hallways, chattering brightly like 
curls of light bending beneath waves of dark waters.

completing your homework like the good student you are,
you eat dinner, read some, and head off the sleep.

but reality has wrapped its stubborn fingers upon one who pulls the
strings of time like sewing thread, and the stitches are undone.

but you remember. 

ii. the second cycle

the calling of birds is different this time, more warped and
distorted; the melody is the same, yet it in curls your stomach
like a w/arning.
even so, the calendar marks the same day as before. in...

hope in a universe remembering to breathe

when you first open your eyes, you find yourself standing in a world that holds its breath.

the grass crunches beneath your feet as you survey the land; featureless, besides a twist oak standing lone and tired.

the ocean thumps beneath your ears like a distant god's heartbeat, barren and unreachable.  there is a silent sorrow to the place, mourning a tragedy it doesn't want to forget- and you wonder what kind of devastation might have caused this desolate landscape. even so, you spot a single wildflower blooming beneath the tree, petals hopeful against the muted jade. 
you bend down and pluck it from its source, cradling it between your fingers. 
perhaps its hope wasn't so misplaced.

you begin to work the land, building a heart and a home for yourself. and yes, while monsters do roam the night, you know they're nothing compared to the monsters within. so you keep your sword sharp and your mind sharper.
and slowly...

to rule the world

does it make you happier to rule the world?
can you taste the loss of humanity sliding down your
throat? perhaps us mortals cannot understand but maybe
ignorance is bliss.

kings and queens demand their name carved into their
kingdoms, and drink their glass of immortality. residing in a place of
pillars of gold and marble and jade and
a crown of blood and tears and shame.

heroes live on in our minds and legends live on in our hearts
but rulers live on in the stars, they mock and laugh down on the
disaster we willingly waltz into; we are dying, we are dying, we drink
our own poison willingly.

heavy is the head the wears the crown, heavier the shoulders of
the souls that must bear it. say your decrees from your palace above
our hearts and we hope and pray for better.

what runs in the veins of monarchs? is it gold, red, black?

citrus scars

remember that august/
summer '16/
we were young and naive/
grass on our jeans/

and your mother she called us/
to make lemonade/
we were young and naive/
but oh how we stayed/

and life gave you lemons/
life gave you limes/
and you made lemonade
you made lemonade/

but life gave you lessons/
and life gave you scars/
so you carved at the bittersweet taste
of the stars/

remember that august/
summer next year/
our faces less gentle/
hearts full of fear/

so we squeezed the lemons/
ignoring the pain/
our faces less gentle/
like cuts in the rain/

and life gave you lemons/
life gave you limes/
and you made lemonade
you made lemonade/

but life gave you lessons/
and life gave you scars/
so you carved at the bittersweet taste
of the stars/

so let that lemon/
drip down your lips/
let them find a home in your
citrus nicks/

they say beauty is pain/
then pain...

for an artist is dead

o! strike the gong, hear its sonorous toll/
for today an artist has fallen from their post./
(can't you see it now, icarus?)
(wings lost in descent)
body splayed 'neath the wooden staircase/
(towards heaven, painting heaven on brick walls')
face tilted towards the prize and the brush/
and sheer bliss drips from their dull lips and curls from oblivious eyes/
twirling and flirting against shattered spine and outstretched limbs reaching/
towards sanguine paints and stolen ambition/
taste the sorrow underneath their tongue/
(lick the humidity oozing through pores)
for an artist is dead and their best work lives on./

of threadbound notebooks and ink licked fingers (50 followers lol)

i.
this isn't really a poem. or a short story. or creative fiction, really.
more like some musings i thought up. mostly because i'm in the middle of something i'd normally call writers block.

ii.
earlier, i wrote a quartet about writers block. it took a total of... 5 minutes? i guess i thought about it in the back of my head for maybe a couple days, but the actualization stage was rather simple. the same could not be said for cynics, which was yes, some sentences longer but took about 2 weeks to write. i don't even have to consult my brain to tell you that the ratio doesn't add up.

iii.
of course, it wasn't consecutive. and writers block was not, ironically, written when i had the titular feeling, while cynics was. does that mean that pieces written during writer's block are generally better?

iv.
of course not. besides that being an incredibly weak and subjective data sample,...

umbrella girl (second draft)

that evening we were standing at an abandoned
gas station, the sky had flicked blush at the horizon, painting it
dusty rose, with highlighted salmon clouds. while you stood taking
photographs for your instagram aesthetics, i suppose
that is when i first saw the umbrella girl.

weirdly enough, her hat was blood red, almost
obnoxiously so. her umbrella, boots and raincoat were a matching
pair, glossy and black, like her devious eyes.
it wasn't raining, nor hot, so i had always wonder about
the purpose of her signature prop. she stood there, her hands posed perfectly
around its handle, umbrella placed tastefully over her shoulder.
head tilted just so- poised, a doll- those flashing eyes and half
smile, like you were the only one in on an inside joke.

the setting sun left blush crumbling to the clear skin
of navy and starlight, hiding behind powerlines and
buildings in the distance. you snapped more pictures, while
the umbrella girl just...

how long has everyone been waiting?

the world is beautiful and overgrown,
though, something about it doesn't sit
quite as well as it should.

you lean against a tree illuminated by campfire,
observing the sun set against the blooming landscape.
and while you don't remember,
something is wrong.

flashes of memories pull at your temples while you
walk against the grass, wind rippling in your shirt
(you remembered the smell of blood soaked against fabric-
was it your own?)
the light of a smile, the caress of a hand,
these people who were apparently your friends-
(it doesn't matter now- they're dead. so take up your sword,
hero, whether you like it or not)
but you know that the world isn't the same
as it was before.

the old woman tells you to hurry
(she who is trapped in the castle needs you)
but as you watch the the sun rise, illuminating
the land they say you failed so many years ago,
you have to know.
...

us bitter shamans of ink and spell

by candlelight, crush your broken heart between fingertips/with the blood of your lovers but the tears of your sorrow/carefully, carefully/with the crackle of the fireplace/dip your pen in and write/revenge may be sweet/but its a swift poison/draw it out/letter by letter/all the more savory/oh, it's witching hour, alright/play those heartstrings like ukulele chords/
/well, writers may be dreamers/and dreamers might forgive/but who said they forget?/who said they forget/try to charm me with your words/enchant me with your smile/oh, did it hurt when you fell from olympus?/no, darling/it'll hurt when i sent you to hades/

beauty is ____

i.
i took the stars and crushed them under my feet
and as i ground them against cheekbones,
i begged for their radiance.
it burned.

i caught the comet's tail and bend its will to my own
and as i strangled it against waistline,
i begged for it's delicacy.
it was suffocating.

i could find the universe
every little planet and nova and moon
i could harness it all         it all
but when i stand in front of the looking glass
would it be enough?

ii.
mirrors tell pretty lies
'you're beautiful'
'you're hideous'
whatever it takes
for you to return to your reflection.

iii.
they say beauty is in a beholder's eye
and yet all it ever seems is long legs and curvy figures and full lips and
plastic.

they say beauty is pain
whist strangling and stabbing and burning and
for what?

what is beauty, anyways?

but you don't remember

you are a survivor-
or so they tell you, when you wake up.
you can't quite remember.
'there was an accident,' they say above
gentle beeps from heart monitors and scents of
sterilized sheets. a woman hands you
a crumpled photo of five smiling people, illuminated
by sunlight and laughter. one of them is
you. but the others...?

'there was an accident,' they repeat.
they point to the others. 'your friends, they...'
the word rings in your ear, curling beneath
confusion and anxiety. were these people
your friends? 
'...passed away in the accident...'
squint harder at your 'friends', try to remember,
try to grieve for these strangers- 
'...miraculously, you were the only survivor, albeit with...'
you feel nothing, for the fatalities of
these people you 'knew', you tried,
you really did.
'a severe concussion... possible memory loss...'

forgotten history whispers secrets under your
cheekbones; you want to mourn the tragedy-
but you don't remember why.

spectral

/the girl walks the empty street/shadow flickering/a broken lamp/against defaced walls and rusty fire escapes/skin absorbing the city's/harsh glows and distant burn/radiating it as her own/a pale luminescence like/waxy limbs in the sea/against the languid fog of a metropolis fast asleep/
/smells like false promises and broken hearts/not quite ready to be forgotten/ignore them, lest she summon/the ghosts again/they, who robbed her of her/voice, you cried out but nobody came/can anyone hear me?/moving her lips, but humans nor specters will/care/the girl with no words but too much to say/not quite spirit, not quite flesh/but somewhere in between/
/the wind picks up a shallow gust/curls it around her figure/dust scatters from dirty converse high-tops/and she knows they've come again/always here/but never seen/the ghosts that purr and leer behind her/ears and under her brow/she closes her eyes/will she feel their spectral fingertips on her shoulders?/
/its cold/its so cold/
/ghostly whispers under her fingernails/swirling to the nape of her neck/they...

its almost 12 but here i am, reaching for the pen

exhaustion drips like liquid pearl/down my temples/out of the corner of my vision/to form milky numbers that tick up, up/11:30, and counting/but here i am/reaching for my glass dip pen/ink stained fingers always thirst for more, i suppose/i taste its bitter epilogue/on my cracked lips and restless tongue/wash it down with/broken metaphors and clumsy imagery/(aren't i the queen of those)/
/11:39, and counting/sometimes it feels hard to breathe/inhaling my own recycled prose/my own 'eloquence'/my own 'originality'/(why am i choking then/why am i)/but why is it never good enough/why does a lust for words always end in/disgust/a shakespearean tragedy between the pen and the paper destined for doom/(the bottle of ink tinkles like a bell/a sea of glittering onyx with too much power/mesmerizing, isn't it)/
/11:51, and counting/outside my window a lone streetlight radiates a sepia incandescence/(i look up to the starless sky and wonder/who else is searching for the same unseen specks/maybe a friend/perhaps an enemy/even, perchance, a twin soul/or...

glass dip pen

grooves of crystal/twisting, twisting/dip it in the ink/dark and soulless/drag it against the paper/watch it smear/rake it against flesh/crimson calligraphy on living canvas/how many stories are written in blood/never enough/never/artists knows what to sacrifice/its part of the trade/a deal with the devil/maybe my blood will make me beautiful/a crown of bleeding lace/if suffering is an empire/well/aren't we all monarchs/
/glistening body/warping, warping/fingers its sides/spiraling, spiraling/spiraling all the way down/is that us/a shimmering universe/encased in glass/strong/hard to break/thats what the etsy seller said/still/if i threw it against the wall/it would break into a thousand glinting shards/hahaha/it wouldn't recover from that, would it/but how many broken hearts can humans endure/and what does that make us/
/they say the pen is mightier than the sword/but i've found something stronger than the pen./
/haha./i don't think that's what they meant./

bind your hand, child

bind your hand, child,
lest you use it,
pencil to paper,
cane to flesh,
suppress that evil.

bind your hand, child,

lest you be seen as different,
chopsticks to mouth,
carefully, carefully,

don't let the baozi fall.

bind your hand, girl,

lest you smear your writing,
write your characters,

stroke by stroke,
perfect, like the rest of you must be.

bind your hand, girl,
lest you be seen as disrespectful,
shake hands,
right and true,
keep that dirty hand away.

bind your hand, woman ,

lest you bring bad omens upon yourself,
smile, say your vows,
you couldn't have married without the switch.

bind his hand, new mother,

lest your child use it.
you saw him use the crayon with the wrong hand,
keep the tradition alive.

birthstones

i. garnet
smirks and subtle glances. the sound of feet against earth. chivalry might be dead, but courage isn't. choppy cuts and shared smiles and approved nods, combat boots and sarcastic expressions. the change she wants to be in the world, advocating for what is right. graffiti for good, defending those who can't defend themselves. too many secrets and not enough time, says the most beautiful things when no one is listening.

ii. amethyst
flowing dresses and lips quirked up ever so cunningly. condescending looks and intimate caresses. mesmerizing dark eyes that go straight through you into your soul and ever so unreadable tilts of the head, seemingly resigned sighs. beauty might be dangerous but intelligence is lethal- and beware, she wields both like a double-edged sword. i told you so and power walks and pep talks and all the things she wished someone would give her. the problem with being the strong one is no one gives you a hand. 

iii. aquamarine
that feeling right before...