sincerely yours SWORD & KETTLE PRESS
sincerely yours FEATURING CHLOE MacPHEE, VANESSA McCOMBS, HAYLEY ANDERTON, MICHAEL PRIHODA, CARLY GLADSTONE, VICTORIA ERDEL, DAWN LOCKE, LUANA Dâ€™ANGELO, VANESSA REISER, SAMMI COX, ANA PRUNDARU, FLORINE DEMAILLY, PUNK-A-CAT, ASHLEY NICOLE, VIANCA MALDONADO, PIP FREEMAN, & AGATHA SCAGGIANTE
SWORD & KETTLE PRESS
ÂŠ 2017 Sword & Kettle Press. Authors retain the rights to their work. Headings set in Lora, designed by Olga Karpushina. Text set in Source Sans Pro, designed by Paul D. Hunt. Cover photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash. Second digital edition. This issue showcases beautiful pieces written by people all over the world. It contains letters to strangers, lovers, communities, family members, and people yet unborn; letters from people who have been wronged and people who have wronged others; letters that confront, converse, and console; letters in traditional form, poem form, and short story form. It explores not only what we say to each other, but also how we say it. Thank you to everyone who submitted to our very first issue and everyone who supports the press. Special thanks to the spectacular Mark & Fran Allen. Sword & Kettle Press Kayla Allen, Editor-in-Chief Zahan Mehta, Contributing Editor swordandkettlepress.com
AN OPEN LETTER TO THOSE WHO LOVE Chloe MacPhee
For all the starry eyed lovers, young fledglings who feel the beating of wings in their chest, for the rosy cheeked demoiselles and bashful sirs unreserved in their expressions of admiration. I write out a warning to you, you who are vulnerable to the magic of fine eyes and wolfish grins, of well-timed remarks and charming airs. Be wary of those who draw your gaze as they saunter across a room; greedy smile painted on their lips, completely oblivious, or worse still, all too aware of the effect they have on that beating organ trapped in your chest. Beware those who reek of heartache, who use heartstrings to tie their slipper. Those who leave a trail of agonizing souls behind them, stormy eyes stuck in a 1000-yard stare. Be vigilant as they approach, armed with serpentine inclinations and sheep's skin. Sugar coated cajolery paves the path to the butcher's block. Never has a victim been completely unaware of this unavoidable route, every recollection tinged with regret and self-vindication. A voice monologues over every rose-coloured reminiscence, lamenting its own foolishness and naivetĂŠ. Squint as the tantalizing fruit of temptation is proffered, under the guise of harmless indulgence. Disguising its sinister allurement with fair words. From the first bite, there's an unforeseen dependence on honeyed words. The prey becomes a loyal fanatic, dependent on platonic glorification. Encounters with the beloved are seldom spent silent. When they are absent, the wounded heart aches for the beloved, the soul suddenly devoid of aimless coquetry. They will change your shape, leave burning embers under your skin and brand you with their name and newfound sin. A timid hatred that will reduce your innocence to ash.
THE ENCLOSED CHECK SHOULD COVER ALL THE DAMAGES Vanessa McCombs Dear Doctor Ishihara, I know that you’re probably expecting this to be an apology letter, so I’m going to tell you right now that the check I sent you is the only apology you’re ever going to receive from me. Yes, I accept that I acted inappropriately, but we both know that it was your actions that drove me to lash out. I mean, the sheer gall of you asking me to sign a testimonial about how you’ve “helped me see a whole new world”…I guess it just triggered something dark inside of me. Something that made me want to hold you down and force you to listen. So that maybe you’d finally hear me when I tried to tell you about the pain. And yes, I know that the eye drops themselves are painless, but then that’s not the point, is it? It would actually be easier for both of us, I think, if your drugs had damaged my body, or if I had some scars to point to. Instead, I’m left with kicking holes in walls and throwing around pictures, all while screaming, “You bastard! Look at what you’ve done to my mind.” Although now that I think about it, I don’t know if that’s precisely what I said, so I guess you’ll have to forgive me for not being sure. (And wow, it didn’t take long to make myself a liar, now did it? How many paragraphs was that? I'd go back and check, but that would be too much like pretending that I actually care.) I can tell you what I am sure of, though. I’m sure of everything your “Colorvue Color Correction” drops have taken away from me, of all those little, bitty pieces of myself that I didn’t appreciate until they were gone. For instance, the pride I took whenever I told people, “My world is prettier than your world,”—and meant it! The smirk I flashed at people who stared at my odd combinations of clothing, knowing that I had the perfect excuse for putting on exactly what I wished any day of the year. And best of all, the satisfaction I experienced when my high school chemistry teacher asked my group of friends the same question he’d been using to put down female students for decades—“What color is the sky in your universe?”—and I was able to answer honestly, “Actually, it’s sort of black and white today.”
THE ENCLOSED CHECK • 3
Let’s not even talk about the photos I’ve had to take down off of my walls. I used to love framing up the world the way I see it, putting all of the different pieces together. And if I happened to get the color composition right, I just considered it a lucky bonus for all of my friends and family to enjoy. Now there is no enjoyment. There’s no enjoyment at all. So again, you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t feel like you’ve done me a favor. Or if I refuse to recommend your eye drops to other people “afflicted” with colorblindness. Instead, I think I’ll tell them that the little things that bother them, like not being able to read web sites that feature dark text on dark backgrounds, or having a salesperson sell you a black shirt when it’s really navy blue, are worth all of the advantages they’ve been given. Worth the flaws they don’t have to see. The random bits of ugliness they don’t have to face. Their world really is a prettier world. And I hate you for causing me to lose my place in it. For forcing me to mourn the person I used to be, that child who could loan out her entire box of sixty-four crayons, without worrying about whether or not it would come back missing a color or two. Now I have to worry about all of them. And that’s why I will never, ever forgive you. Respectfully, V. M.
FREYA’S LETTER Hayley Anderton Jamie, Who knew one week could destroy a relationship? Evidently not us. They say there’s no cure for a broken heart, but I know chocolate can do wonders for everything else, so I’ve sent you a box. They’ve got hazelnuts in them. I thought you’d like them. But I realise chocolate can’t fix everything. Nothing can fix us. We’d need a lot of superglue to stick us back together, and even then, we’d be trying our hardest to break free. I’m not going to ask you to let me come back. Even though I’d probably like to, even if not for the right reasons. I’ll never show my face again in your house. I’m staying with Emma right now. She’ll come by and collect the rest of my things. Do you remember when we met? You were drunk as hell and you told me that I was more beautiful than the stars. And when you woke up the next day, you probably thought you’d jumped in to bed with a pug. She was like that. I mean, not right off, but I thought after my week with her, I’d found something beautiful, when really, everything was ugly and wrong. Things didn’t work out, if you didn’t figure that out anyway. With her, I fell hard and I fell fast, and I thought that was love just because I felt something I hadn’t felt before. But Jamie, love isn’t like that. That’s lust. I was (and still am) in lust with her. Love is surfing a wave. And when you’re surfing that wave, it’s exhilarating, because you’re defying the sea. You’re arrogant and high on self-confidence. You think you can keep going forever. But love is also the moment where you come crashing down. Something goes wrong. Someone breaks your heart or you break it yourself and you fall and fall, until the waves consume you. The water fills your mouth and ears and eyes. You can’t see, you can’t breathe, you can’t think. When she kicked me in the dirt, turned on me for no reason…I was hurt, but I knew I’d survive. It’s different with you. With you, it’s a tsunami. And no matter how I try to swim to the surface, I can’t. She was a distraction to how much it hurt giving you up. But now I’m feeling it. And I deserve it.
FREYA’S LETTER • 5
I think it took me too long to realise just what I had with you. I miss the little things now. Getting up early to make you breakfast so you have something to wake up to other than my bed head and last night’s mascara. I miss watching you dress. I miss when you pick out a tie and you ask me to knot it for you, or you ask whether it looks okay with your blue shirt. But it’s not as simple as loving the little things. There comes a point where the good things don’t outweigh the bad ones. And I know you hate the way I swear a lot. I know you think I work too much and don’t make enough time for you. I know that you hate that I’ve been with girls, and I hate that about you. Those little things on their own don’t seem enough, but together, it was killing me. Killing me, and you, and us, as a pair. We fell apart slowly, Jamie. And then she came along and she severed the final fringes of what we were hanging on to. She just sped things up a little. And now I don’t have you, and I don’t have her. I don’t think I have anything much. But I’m glad she turned out the way I thought she was from the start. It saved us dragging this out further. Because I love you, but that’s not enough anymore. I’ll never forgive myself for ending the way we did. I cheated on you, and I lied to you. I humiliated you, and I let her in when I should have run when I had the chance. But I guess we both learnt what sort of a person I really am. At least now I can work on changing that. And you can move on. Don’t you worry, Jamie. Our three years, five months and fifteen days together may seem significant now. But I’m a fallen star. You need to grab one that’s still in the sky. And give her, or him, all your love the way you did with me. God knows, when you find them, they’ll deserve it. They’ll be good enough for you. They’ll give it all back and more. Freya
TO MY FIRST CHILD Michael Prihoda Dear Son (or perhaps, because probability favors XX, daughter), I’m going to be your father someday. If you exist, I already am your father. And your mother, well, she will be somebody entirely, unbelievably more beautiful than I am from whom I eagerly hope the majority of your DNA receives its resemblance. Your birth will follow this letter by some years. Currently, you are no bigger or more realistic a thought than the period at the end of this sentence. No explicit comment will be made as to your exact creation. Someday you will discover those details. And, judging from my own experience, those details will be made prescient in a situation fueled by youthfully active imagination and certain four-letter words that I hope you value but never utter while in the company of God, your pastor, your teachers, or the person you intend to marry (unless you marry a rapper who moonlights as a stand-up comedian, in which case obscenities may form quite the counterpart to your breakfast cereal). Forget conception, your birth? Know that I will hold your mother’s hand through the entire ordeal, itself palpable like a plane taking off, before you appear, probably crying (you will do lots of crying in those early years that I may or may not remind you of once you’re old enough to understand the auditory burden you were to me and your mother). We will cherish you from moment one until you adopt the persona of James Dean sometime around sophomore year of high school and for split seconds of doubt we will wonder (much the same way Van Gogh must have wondered looking at his paintings) if creating you wasn’t more hassle than it was worth. Despite trials, we will tolerate you and not kick you unceremoniously down the front steps and into manual labor at the local lumberyard. Somehow, I will find it in me to be your constantly devoted father, waving pennants at all your swim meets. Because of our love for you we will make all your choices. Really, you have none in anything until approximately age 18 or 21, which, if the latter, may result in the worst possible 21st birthday bash wherein you do exactly the opposite of me and definitely only drink Apollinaris all night while your friends celebrate your achievement through massive, earth-shaking inebriation.
TO MY FIRST CHILD • 7
You ought to know I do not like children similarly to how I dislike Flannery O’Connor, fast food, Top-40 radio stations, and a horde of other things. As way of explanation for this potentially frightful piece of me, I worked as a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons. If at time of reading you do not understand this rationale, someday you will. Nonetheless, I will find it in me to love you, though probably you will end up breaking my heart by not becoming a professional goalkeeper or else calling my musical tastes outdated. Though, if you become an auto mechanic or a zoologist, I will love you just the same. Whatever you become, you will retain that beautiful XY/XX combo made unique by your face. Though you are presently nonexistent I have faith of your future existence, the way I trust in the forever extinction of dodo birds. No doubt I will save you from certain multiple self-destructions, provide pseudodisheveled wisdom in the most cryptic way possible, and also at times give you golden advice about the individual romance you chase with abandon. Perhaps you will never realize how grateful you ought to be for those services. Probably, you will not be grateful for my existence until I am dead, and then only for minutes, considering I plan to leave you nothing in my will. Such realization may crush your grateful, blessed spirit. Either way, please move on. What I’m trying to say is that I love you forever already. In the spaces before you ever have a chance at being realized, I am proud to call you my first child. Sincerely, Your father
DEAR GIRL, I THINK Iâ€™M SORRY Carly Gladstone Some mornings I clearly remember calling you Kenna, I think this was because in my mouth it sounded hungry and soft Reminded me of the way I felt when I first set sights on his Living room compiled of broken side-of-the-road furniture Believing, yes I can fix this. It's hard to comprehend that Maeva didn't stick I specifically remembered following the instructions Waiting 3-5 minutes before letting go of you and it Applying three layers of adhesive to this memory of Him telling me to take a bus tomorrow, He was busy. Three days in bed praying for you, August Please Bring me your deep set heat, turn my home into a sauna Since I have been left erratic and opulent at my core. When I finally claw my lids open, roll out of bed, Braid my hair and purge this He will be gone to colder places and I will be alone and I think that I would like that. Oh Kimberly, My hips and teeth now feel as Sharp as I believed you to be. I cut my lip Yesterday while I drove 5AM through sheets of rain like glass Shattering against my windshield, hiding the lines on the road. Felicity, I prayed, I'm glad you aren't in the backseat Just in case.
OUR HAIR Victoria Erdel My dear, curly-haired siblings, I want you to know that you are not alone. Yes, I see you at the end of the beauty store aisle, exploring the options of curl cream. You let your locks slip down your shoulder as you tilt your head to one side, squinting to read the price tag that comes with your hair. It’s $25, plus tax. Plus discrimination. I see the confusion in your eyes as you read the back of the bottle, trying to decide if a quarter of your paycheck is worth ten ounces of promise. I see you put the bottle back, and reach for a cheaper alternative. But it’s still going to cost you. Because your hair, our hair, comes with a price beyond what we pay at the counter. Our hair comes with a frown from our potential employer at an interview, because it isn’t professional. Our hair comes with thin fingers twisted up in it, pulling our coils, because others seem to think that we want to be petted. Our hair comes with nights of relaxing, straightening, ironing ourselves into submission, because we are conditioned to crave the glossy hair that we see in commercials and on billboards. Our hair comes with oohs and aahs from outsiders that see only our spirals and not our souls. But you are not alone. I want you to know that there are others, many others, who understand. We understand that we are more than our hair, yet, we are also partially defined by it. And that is okay. If your boss asks you to straighten your hair, tell them to straighten their attitude. If someone asks to touch your hair, touch theirs first. When you feel the urge to pull your hair straight, get your favorite gel instead and scrunch it. When people gasp at your texture, smile and flip your hair in all its glory. And remember: people may tell you that your hair is not a big deal. You may ask them, then, why they judge you by the curl of your hair and not by the content of your character. We live in a country that is trying to reconcile the days when we
10 â€˘ KITH ISSUE 01
judged each other for our skin, yet many do not realize that we divide ourselves over the pattern of fibers on our scalp. Our hair does come with a price; it is more than the number on your receipt. It is more than the $25 bottle you put back on the shelf. But, our hair: Is unique. Is beautiful. Is professional. Is worthy. And, most importantly, I want you to know that our hair is ours. Sincerely, Your curly-haired sister
LETTER TO AN ALMOST-LOVER Dawn Locke Hey there. I wanted you to know I missed you. I was wondering if you, maybe, missed me, too? It’s not that I ask for much. Nor will I ever. Ask for much, or anything, that is. I won’t pressure you. I just would like a “hi” or, well, a “how are you?” A word or two. But I know you. You have so much to say. You’re interesting. Intelligent. Kind. Clever. Handso- I digress from my point. Those qualities are the very least of you. You are absolutely, singularly, passionately you. And, well, that’s who I’ve fallen in love with between sips of rum and watching you edit your films for YouTube. You. The goodness of you. The frustration you are. You. Sorry, I guess. I know you see me as nothing more than a young girl along for the ride. A character. Feel free to forget what I say. But… you called me amazing. How can I amaze the absolutely breathtaking? That’s what I want to know, really. If you happen to love me, too. All the best, as always meant, me
LETTERS TO THE PAST Luana D’Angelo The stars sprawl above the city as the evening sky drives the sun away. Standing on a cliff and looking down at a glowing, electric city, a young woman lets down her stuffed, old mailman bag and sits over the edge, her legs crossed as she absorbs the evening air into her lungs. With shaking hands out of anticipation, she reaches for the old pair of binoculars hanging around her neck. Aiming for the sky, the woman spots her target: the brightest star, isolated from its celestial friends. The woman opens her bag with careful fingers, and picks out a fragile, baby blue paper plane. On its wings, a graceful script reads: “To my younger brother.” The woman takes yet another deep breath and feels the wind blow in her favor. She swings her arm in a graceful motion, and the paper plane glides through the wind, carried by the currents, lifting up higher and higher until it becomes a small dot in the night. The woman lets out her breath. It has been done. Lining up five tiny, red paper planes in front of her legs, she bites her lip as she brushes off a rebel straw of her hair. “To my ex-lovers,” she repeats, as she starts from first to last, sending off the planes. Once done, her eyes avert to the three yellow planes: “To my best friends.” They swing heavier in her arms and glide swiftly with the wind, shining under the moonlight like pure gold. The woman’s eyes follow their course, until they disappear, reaching for the brightest star. The woman nods in silence and reaches for the next pair of paper planes, the biggest in her old and dusty letterman bag. She picks them with care as not to crumple the fine folding. The paper is a soft shade of green, and at each wing, the names of her parents can be read. “To my parents,” she says, although she knows no one would hear. Perhaps that’s what makes the whole thing better. No one knows the contents of those letters but her.
LETTERS TO THE PAST • 13
The wind blows warmer, welcoming and soothing as it carries plane after plane. The young woman watches in awe, imagining a sky full of little, colorful planes painting the night sky over the city before her eyes. She wonders if other people shared the same idea as hers. If, down there, in the city, a child or an elder, a businesswoman or a policeman would look up to the sky and see the same thing. Patting her bag and feeling against the fabric, the woman cringes as her hand hits the folding, crumbling and flattening the plane. She quickly recovers the piece of white and plain paper written on in emotional scribbles with pencil graffiti. Not nearly as fancy as every previous letter. Not nearly as attractive or delicate. It is now flattened and crumpled. With careful fingers, the woman unfolds the letter, revealing its receiver. “To My Younger Self, You are only twelve, and wondering if you’ll make it. I am now twice your age, and I tell you, you will. But I can’t tell you it will be easy. There will be days you will believe in yourself, there will be days you won’t. There will be days when you’ll think that is the worst day of your life; and looking back, it might have been. But you will find your way out, you will discover yourself. The doubts that you have about this world will be answered, and I can only say, these answers will come from no one but yourself. Maybe you know what I’m talking about, maybe you don’t. Maybe in three years you will read this letter again. Maybe you will only remember this as a dream. But know, in dream or reality, that you are strong, and you are loved. And I believe in you.” Folding back carefully, the woman sniffles and blinks away the tear in her eye, and holding her head up high, she waits for a new gust of wind and swings her arm with all her grace. The letter flies up, higher and higher until it’s lost against the light of the brightest star. The woman lets out a heavy, relieved breath. Her palms are sweaty, and she wipes the sweat off on her jeans. The sky looks different—her world looks different. The weight is not hers to carry.
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The woman picks up her bag, and glances at the her hometown one last time. At the foot of the cliff, her car waits for her, packed with new ambitions, new goals, new dreams. A new life in a new city, a new day a few hours away. Turning her back, she faces a stranger. An old, bald man with a stuffed mailman bag of his own hanging on his side, paper planes poking out of the open zipper. The stranger nods, and so does she. Walking past the man, she passes her own empty bag over her shoulder, leaving the cliff behind for its next dreamer and set of letters to the past.
FROM NEBRASKA WITH LOVE Vanessa Reiser Dear Naomi, I know you were drawn to California. You always had big dreams that you wanted to make come true. I understood you couldn’t become a singer in Nebraska. That’s why I let you go. I couldn’t keep you here with me. Not when your heart was calling you to California. You always followed your heart wherever it wanted to go. There was nothing I could do to stop you. I could’ve tried to give you everything you wanted, but I didn’t. You’d always choose California over me. It broke my heart when you left. It took me a long time to get over you. Did everything I could to forget you. Gathered up all your pictures and burned them. I gave away all your clothes. Your makeup and beauty products went into the trash. I got rid of anything that reminded me of you. Then, I had to deal with your memory. So, I started drinking. I’d go to the bar and drown my sorrows in alcohol. It was mostly just straight whiskey. That seemed to be the only thing strong enough to kill your memory. Funny, I never was much of a drinker until you left. It took me a while to get used to the taste. Much like a cigarette, it doesn’t burn so much the second time. Or the third. Or the fourth. Or the fifth. Can’t say I remember how I got home or much else about that time. It was nothing more than an alcoholic haze. My drinking got so bad that I was forced to get help. Took a long time to get sobered up, but by the time I was done, I’d forgotten you. I’ve often wondered what I’d do if you came back. Thought I might take you back. That was at first, but now I don’t know. Maybe I’m better off without you. You’ll stay with me just until you find another dream to chase. Then, you’ll leave me again and I’ll have to deal with losing you. You wouldn’t have stayed in California for five years if you missed me like you said you did. You didn’t even think of me until you saw that young man. You wouldn’t have thought about coming back if not for him. I guess thinking of me late is better than never. Maybe I’ll take you back. Maybe I won’t. I don’t want to go through the hurt of losing you again. I can’t go back down that road. It’ll kill me if I do. I’ll crawl inside a whiskey bottle and never come out. I’d be living my life as a drunk, trying to get over a girl. Not caring about anything except where my next drink is coming from. That’s not how I want to live my life.
16 • KITH ISSUE 01
Not after I’ve already gotten over you once. Don’t get me wrong though, I still love you. I never stopped. Never would’ve started drinking if I didn’t. I’m just trying to protect myself. Things have changed in the five years you’ve been gone. I found another girl and fell in love with her. Don’t know if I love her as much I loved you. But, maybe I’m in love with the girl you used to be. Not the one you are. Being in California that long can change a person. Are you still the same girl you where when you left? I doubt it. I’d be surprised if you still are. I don’t know what to tell you, Naomi. I can’t stay I don’t love you. I can’t stay I still do. It all depends on what type of girl you are. Guess the only way to find out is for you to come back. I can promise you this; I’ll fall in love with you all over again if you’re still the same girl you were when you left. I’ll tell the other girl there’s no future for us. You’re the only girl that’s ever caused me this much joy and pain. Guess we’ll find out what happens to us when you come home. From Nebraska with love, Luke Jensen
A LETTER FROM A TROUBLED SOUL Sammi Cox
To the Kind and Patient person who opens this, I'm sorry, I don't know your name. You don't know who I am either. In truth, that is why I chose to send this letter to you. I thought it would be easier to write; opening my heart to a stranger. However, as my words begin to flow across the page, I realise that I was wrong. It is a much more difficult, agonising task than I could ever have imagined. I suppose, before we go any further, I should explain a few things. "Why am I sending you this letter?" and "What is the purpose of it?" are no doubt the questions at the forefront of your mind. So, without further ado, I shall try as best as I can to explain and hope that my words are enough to convince you to read until the end. Please do not judge me too harshly or prematurely, for it is with a heavy heart and troubled mind that I feel moved to put such thoughts on paper and offer them to a stranger. I chose your house at random. I drove up and down streets looking for the right one to post this to. I know it sounds foolish, but when I saw your home, I got the feeling that good, kind people lived within, and that perhaps you would not mind receiving a letter such as this. That you would take the time to read it before you threw it away. I hope that I'm right. It calms me to think that someone full of compassion might see my words and know that for once I tried to say sorry. It doesn't matter that you don't know who I am or what I am saying sorry for. I suppose what I am trying to say is that all that matters is that you know I tried. As to the purpose of this letter? That is a little harder to explain. An act of confession perhaps? The first steps towards redemption? They both sound like such grand concepts, as if this letter could possibly have a noble purpose. Alas, that is not the case. I wish it were. I fear my reasons are too selfish and I too craven for such high moral notions. All I am looking for is a little respite from that which torments me: I know I have done wrong.
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Seeing these words, my words, on the paper causes my heart to flutter and sweat to bead on my brow. Even now, I doubt I have the courage to part with this declaration of guilt, yet if you are reading it I must have found the strength of will from somewhere. I hope this one small act is enough; enough to make a difference; enough to bring about a change within me. Perhaps I am looking for a fairytale ending where there can be none, but then, what is life without hope? If I don't believe then things don't have a chance of getting better. I must trust that it's possible to be forgiven, even if I cannot forgive myself. It would be easy to blame another for what I've done, to say that I am this way because of what was done or said to me. But that is not the truth of it. I was raised by kind parents, surrounded by good people and good friends. As I reflect upon my wayward journey, I realise that I had everything but for me it wasn't enough. The grass is always greener on the other side. Isn't that how the saying goes? I have never found it easy to do the right thing or make the right choice, though I never set out deliberately to choose wrong. Mistakes and ill-conceived ideas have dogged my path through life, all of them of my own making. I have always been quick to act and slow to ponder; no wonder things turned out as they did. My actions brought nothing but pain and hardship to those I cared for the most. Only at the time, for reasons I cannot recall, I couldn't see it. And now, for many of them, it is too late for my apologies. It is too late to undo the damage I've caused. Please do not pity me. I am not looking for sympathy. I know what it is that I've done, and I do not deserve it. That is not the intention of this letter. It is an acknowledgement, by me; that is all. I am owning my guilt. I am owning my actions. I am no longer denying who I am or what I've done. The accusations I hear each night in the voices of those I've lost are now also my own. And I must say sorry; for what I've done, and what I haven't. For not saying it sooner because pride stood in the way and I couldn't admit that I was wrong. And so, I shall write it here, for you, a stranger, so that you may know. I am sorry. I am sorry. I AM SORRY. The words seem so insignificant, so small, no matter how many times I scribble them down on the paper.
A LETTER FROM A TROUBLED SOUL â€˘ 19
Tears have begun to stain the page. As I try and stem the flow, another thought occurs to me, one that might raise questions in your mind of my sincerity. Please don't think that I am only sorry because I am tormented. Rather, know that it's only because I am tormented that I see I have reason to be sorry. My words are true and heartfelt, and my admission genuine. And now my confession is done. My amends, such as they are, are made. Is it enough? Does it change anything? Can it? Only time will tell, yet I shall try and remain optimistic. I thank you greatly for your time, and I hope that you will be able to forgive me this great imposition. In reading this, you have performed a generous act of charity and kindness, one that I shall never be able to repay, and one I shall never forget. Thank you. I won't contact you again. All I wanted was for someone, somewhere to know that I was sorry. Kindest regards for always, A Troubled Soul
MANMADE FLOOD Ana Prundaru The smoke tells me to tell you: Let's not catch nectarine bubbles anymore. You know, those soft foams that burst with exoticness, pouring through our grey curtains in the morning. Ask Bessie Smith, if you don't believe me. And you probably agree that she is a specialist when it comes to doomed constellations. Not everything can be explained with a graph, but I can assure you that nectarine bubbles almost always end up tasting like cold coffee by midday. My guess is, they are killed by light. I fear there is no point in unpeeling vaguely shaped years and wrapping them around our chest like indigested sorrows. Your cheekbones are sufficiently decorative anyway. I tell it to tell you: Toss your wet coat on the couch, let the broken glass pieces fall into place. Could you stretch your icy hands back home?
LETTER TO AN ALMOST-LOVER, PART II Dawn Locke Hey there. Me again. All that about me loving you? Can we justâ€¦ ignore all that? Thanks. ---me
STRANGER LETTER Florine Demailly Marisa, Remember the StrangerLetter club-of-sorts we used to see ads for all the time back in high school? It had taken us months before we figured out the stranger danger pun. The reason I'm going out of my way to tell you this is because I found one such letter in my new house last month. It had some messy handwriting on it—I think it says “hide it in the garden”. Trouble is, I don't have a garden. Besides, this letter isn't even for me. I found it with some of the former owner's things while moving furniture around to get rid of one of the kitchen walls to make it bigger (the kitchen, not the wall). It never bothered me to undo what dead people had done while they were alive. The world doesn't belong to them anymore anyway, and this kitchen just so happens to be part of said world. Plus, it was tiresome to walk all the way around that damn wall just to make a fresh pot of coffee. A lot of people would have been interested in this letter right away, but I just left it where it was, since I had so many things to do. Not that I'm unlike a lot of people. I sat down on the big red sofa that sits in the middle of the living room, from where I can watch the TV. The sofa's big, the TV also, the living room as well and it now opens on an equally big kitchen. Everything I've got is big and expensive, probably because I live on my own and have nobody to save money for. Whenever I'm seeing someone, I won't let him inside, and none of my friends ever spend the night. I'd rather stay on my own after hours, otherwise things can get dangerous. Do you believe in werewolves? You should. Just kidding, I was trying to make my life more interesting than it really is. I get bored a lot. I've got a flower shop now. It's called At Leona's, even though I'm not called Leona. I don't even like flowers, but you can't really choose what you're good at. I inherited my green thumb from my mom- whom I was never really fond of, as you may remember. I always liked my dad better, he knew how to cook, but he didn't
STRANGER LETTER • 23
grant me this gift when he passed down some of his DNA to me. There are worse things, I guess. Either way, back to the letter: as I told you, I didn't pay much attention to it at first, I just left it there and stopped thinking about it altogether until I resumed my decoration work. About ten days had gone by since I had originally found the envelope, and I would have thrown it away had it not been for the smell. Now, I have no idea why nor how, but it smelled of camellias and it drove me crazy. I started sniffing the thing like an idiot, nevermind my allergy to dust, until I just had to open it and see if it had noticeable traces of perfume or some dried up petals stuck in the paper. I could find neither, which got me thinking maybe the letterset was made scented, then next thing I know, I was sitting on my sofa with the whole five pages of the letter spread around me, and I read it all. Do you ever have something in mind, like a book you read a long time ago or a movie you saw on TV, that won't let go no matter what? Even unrelated details will remind you of it, you'll catch yourself thinking back on it at work, in your bubble bath, while you're having breakfast, and there's no real reason why? It's kind of silly, I can't get this stupid letter out of my head, and I didn't even know the man who lived here before me! Geez, his pen pal might be just as dead, and I have no idea how long they'd been writing to each other, but dammit, Risa, you should see how heartbreaking the letter is. It's signed “Aug”, so I'm thinking the one to write the letter is called Augustus, or maybe just August, or Augusto if he's Italian? Maybe it's a codename. If I remember correctly, StrangerLetter advised not to give your real name to your pen pal, probably so they wouldn't be held responsible should someone end up dead or something. Aug started his letter with “Dear Jul”, so either my dead old man's name was Jules, or they used months as codenames. Their birth month, maybe? Alright, you probably don't even get why I'm sending you this, especially since we haven't talked in a good twenty years. Holy hell, Marisa, twenty years! I'd ask you what you've been up to, but I see you on TV often, and your husband's in the public eye enough that I know he apparently cheated on you with a girl young enough to be your daughter. That has to be weird. And disgusting. Infuriating, too, probably. I hope you broke his ankle like you did to Simon Renner the one time he poked your butt. You can always count on soccer to teach you how to kick, isn't that right? Yeah, right. It's crazy how much I've missed you. Just writing this, I can imagine us sitting on stools, a martini in hand, catching up and laughing like we're the only people in the bar. Those old men, you know, they swapped stories and jokes like children, I've
24 â€˘ KITH ISSUE 01
read and re-read the letter I found like it's food for thought, the only life inside this stupid house. More than lonely, I guess I'm old beyond my years, I feel like a scary cat lady who chases kids away from her front lawn. Where did time go, do you know? You always look so young on the news, talking about the world's saddest stories with that little frown, like you were there and saw it with your own eyes. You're my oldest friend, but it feels like I've made it all up. Sometimes werewolves sound more likely than our friendship. I'm going to bury the letter in someone else's garden, or maybe in the park, I haven't decided yet. But before I do, I'd like to read it with you. Please don't say no. You can't pretend like you don't remember me, either, because we've been like sisters since kindergarten. I would make you bubble tea, I can even come to you if you're too busy to fly across the country. Marisa, let's be friends again, like the old days, please. I miss you, and I'm scared of being alone, so please write me back. I'm sticking a post-it with my new address on the letter, as well as my phone number. I really hope I'll hear from you soon, and if not soon, at least someday. Love always, Lottie.
LETTER TO MYSELF Punk-A-Cat I remember you. Buddha said, “Do no harm,” but you forgot that means to yourself too. Do you need to change your circumstance …or your attitude to your circumstance more? Remember that utter peace when you made the decision? It wasn’t imaginary; you have to move on to grow. You rejected everything you were taught just so you could find the truth of it yourself. And now you are coming home. You have friends who love you for a reason. You are the reason. You don’t need to be anyone but yourself. You are enough. Stop repeating the words others have given you, and remember who you really are. You are not those labels, and sacrifice that hurts you doesn’t help others. You’re not a martyr; nobody is asking you to bleed for them. How can they be happy and safe when you are miserable and lost? Fear won’t go away; it’s there to remind us that there are still lessons we need to learn. But you have to hear those words that were said: “Just do it anyway.” You know this, but you need to KNOW this. Nothing will change until you do, and that’s ok. Let yourself grow. Do what you need. Trust everything will be ok.
WHAT YOU NEVER LET ME TELL YOU Ashley Nicole To you, I’ve been trying to make sense of the past few months, trying to figure out where this will leave us. It’s like we were swept up in this tornado for so long, spinning round and round like Dorothy’s house, and now that the storm dropped us down, I don’t know where you went. I knew you like the back of my hand. You treat your brother like he’s a god. You love comic books and superhero movies. You care too much for people who care too little. You go back to people who treat you like crap. So, why did you never come back to me? I was always honest with you, always there for you, always helping you. We always went through such a terrible cycle. One day, we were friends. Then, you were calling me at midnight and telling me how great I was or how the Library of Congress would have been my favorite place. We talked about our friends and college and life. It was simple and ordinary. Until, of course, it wasn’t. Because I had to go and say how I hadn’t seen that one superhero movie, the one I knew you’d seen with your brother two weeks before. You had to insist that you wanted to go with me, that it was worth seeing again if you could see it with me. You had to tell me that we shouldn’t invite anyone else “because our friends are so rowdy” and that we’d “make a date of it”. I remember lunch and walking around that giant store next to the movie theater. I remember how I leaned against you and your hand kept brushing mine. I remember how the credits started to roll, and I hadn’t even realized I wasn’t moving. The entire ride home, I was babbling about random things. We were suddenly at your house, and you were walking up to your front door. It was over, and I was stuck in this weird space of wondering what had just happened.
WHAT YOU NEVER LET ME TELL YOU • 27
We were always so goddamn careful. You never wanted to define it, and I got caught up in the idea that it was romantic to be on such a thin tightrope for so long. Do you remember the night when you called me and asked what we were? I had been tired, about to doze off, but suddenly, I was so awake it was as if my eyes were going to crawl out of their sockets. We went back and forth, carefully claiming that we were more than friends but not quite dating. So much potential. We hung up. I thought to myself that it was too good to be true; we were in the perfect spot, because I didn’t know how I felt about you. It was nice to know that I had time to figure out what I wanted. “I just couldn’t sleep, and I love talking to you.” “I just care about you a lot and I just want to make sure everything is perfect between us.” “I’m laying here thinking about it all, I don’t know about you but it’s the only thing on my mind.” Those are some of the things you sent to me that next morning. Suddenly, we were on the fast track to a real-deal relationship. I was swept up in this fairy tale sort of idea. I told my friends that I was happy. I mean, how could I not be? You stopped talking to me a few days after that. We hung out at a friend’s, and you treated me like I was a stranger. I drove home and took the long way there, blasting the radio until that song came on from the day we went to the movies. And then I was sitting in front of my house in my car, sobbing like a toddler who lost her toys, saying over and over again, “I knew it wouldn’t work out.” You told me later on you didn’t want to hurt me. I wanted to ask if you had thought about that the other countless times. What about when you said no one would take me to prom? Or when you made me believe you were going to ask me and then turned around and asked my best friend? How about when you put your arm around me and told me I was beautiful? And that was when it all hit me. I remember thinking, this is how I lose you. Not over a sloppy mistake or a mutual understanding to move on, not because we realized we were better off apart than we were together. You decided to let go, and
28 • KITH ISSUE 01
I never got to say my piece. I was left with so many, too many, things I never got to tell you. There were so many instances when your apologies were explanations, and I wasn’t allowed to respond without sounding needy or desperate. Maybe I was desperate. I’m sitting here now, and it’s been months. It’s been half a year and then some. I’ve cleansed you from my system, and I understand now that withdrawal is a painful and dirty process. I’m talking to a great guy – the very one who took me to prom last year – and he does all of the right things. But sometimes, and it kills me to admit this, the memory of you tears at me like a wolf. I was watching a movie where the girl and the guy are on the phone, and it was so cliché and cutesy, and I was crying so hard, I couldn’t breathe. I just feel like we deserved more. We deserved a solid ending, a real relationship with a catastrophic kind of break-up. At least then people would know why I can’t stand the sight of you. Instead, I’m the girl who latched on too quickly and fell too harshly. I’m the terrible friend who won’t let you back in. But don’t you get it? I can’t let you back in. I did it too many times to count, and I paid the price every time. I spent nights staring at my phone and writing poetry about you. I cried to my best friend in a crowded restaurant and ate ice cream by the gallon for weeks. I was trying to find out what scary part of me finally sent you running, what monsters crawled out from under the bed. I was trying to understand how you hooked me like a fish and gutted me clean before I even knew I liked you. I don’t miss you, but I miss the potential. I miss the possibility of you and me and everything we used to think we could be. A house in the county and our six kids, a spring wedding so the bridesmaids could wear pastels. I remember the plans, the ideas, the promises. I remember you disappearing in the summer haze. I remember being a ghost of myself for weeks, months. I write poetry now about the monster you became. I write letters to you and lists of everything you did wrong. I tell my friends to keep you away, because I know I am strong, but I am also so weak.
WHAT YOU NEVER LET ME TELL YOU • 29
One day, you’ll be a distant memory. You will be the story I tell my daughter when she says a boy she loved broke her heart. You will be the footnote in a list of romances I ramble about to my fiancé over champagne. You will be a ghost from my past, and I know that, so I will let you go. I never thought we’d make it to the end, but I thought you would have at least tried. —the girl who finally stopped holding on to something that was never really there
A DISTANT LOVE Vianca Maldonado R, I love you. And this past week I’ve missed you dearly. But this isn’t going to work if it keeps going on like this. Missed calls and short voicemails. Empty text messages. We don’t share our days, our moments, or our thoughts. It’s hard to stay crazy about a person when there’s so much distance. What kind of relationship works on only 10 words a day? maybe one call a week? no kisses and no hugs? Just saying I love you and I miss you won’t fill the gap. can’t fix the problems. doesn’t hurt any less. I love you and I miss you dearly. But this isn’t going to work if it keeps going on like this. V.
A LETTER THAT WILL NEVER BE READ Pip Freeman Dear mum, I turned eighteen last week. I had a wonderful day, I really did. Dad invited your parents over as well as his, and I had a couple of friends round too, and we all had the most wonderful meal together. Dad didn’t cook, of course; Nan did, and it was delicious. Spaghetti Carbonara and garlic bread. It’s my favourite. Dad says it was your favourite, too. Everyone who knew you says I’m just like you. They say I have the same tastes, the same likes and dislikes, clothing style, voice. They say I’m your spitting image. I’ve seen your photo so many times and you were beautiful, mum, you really were, so I know that’s a compliment, but I’ve come to realise something. I’ve come to realise that I don’t want to be like you. I don’t want to replace you. Every time Dad looks at me, he sees you, and it hurts him, I know it does. Sometimes he can barely look at me. It’s not fair. I feel like I don’t get the chance to be my own person. I feel like I’m just you, but never quite as good. I never even met you and you’re still making me feel inadequate. Sorry. I know it’s not your fault. Obviously it’s not your fault. And I’ve missed the point, anyway. The point is that the fact that I turned eighteen last week means that I finally got to read the letter that Dad keeps in the top of his wardrobe. I found it when I was twelve, and every day since then I considered opening it. I knew it was from you, and I just wanted a little piece of who you were, I suppose. And, selfishly, I wanted you to tell me you loved me, just once. I hoped you had said that in the letter. I never read it, though, until my eighteenth, like you said. I didn’t want to betray your trust. Thank you. You said everything I wanted to hear, and more. It was beautiful, it truly was.
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Yes, I am happy. I have amazing friends and a comfortable life. I really do want for nothing. I hope that I am as strong, and intelligent, and beautiful as you said you knew I’d be. You were wrong about one thing, though. I may not remember you but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss you with every fibre of my being, every day. I just wish you’d been there for me. It’s selfish, I know, and Dad did the best he could, but I don’t think he could never give me what a mother could have. Well, for one thing, you know how bad he is at cooking. But there were other things as well. When I had my first period, he freaked out. He didn’t know what to do. And when I needed a bra for the first time, he gave me money and told me to go off and get one. I had no idea what I was doing. And the small things, like boys, and clothes, and makeup, and shaving my legs—I had to figure so much out for myself. It was hard. I think about you everyday. Who you were. If we would have fought a lot, or got on really well. How my life would have been different with you in it. Maybe, if you hadn’t died, I would have had brothers or sisters. I shouldn’t think about what could have been, but I do. It’s a cliché, I know, but I’ve always felt like something was missing. Maybe it’s you. I won’t ever know. Dad says I can’t love someone I never knew, but I don’t care. You wrote in your letter that you loved me, and so I’m writing the same in mine. I love you. I love you. I love you. I’m sorry. I was going to write so much to you. So much about my life, and who I am, but all I can think about is how much I missed out on. The words just aren’t coming to me. This letter will never be read, just like we’ll never know each other and I’ll never be held in your arms. I should burn it. Maybe I will. Sorry. Your loving daughter, Carmen
HEY YOU Agatha Scaggiante I hope it fucking rots you out inside I hope you swallow her tears and your mothers’ and the glass ceiling you broke with your meaty fists and they tear your organs to pieces, slivers in places you’ll never find without peeling the rest of you away I hope you’re never the same Do you understand? She’ll never be the same Hope your self pity turns into self loathing and you start wanting to claw your teeth out with your fingernails, thumb stabbed into each eye I need you to bleed out I need you to stop smiling with the friends who don’t know who they’re talking to I need you to be trembling like a leaf on a musty couch as you try and distance yourself from something etched inside of you and I need you to be scared every time you hear your own voice because you know the things you said and you know the things you said before you did the things you did Stop living with yourself Just fucking stop
4AM; AN ODE TO YOUR SOBRIETY Carly Gladstone i ; If you walk out that door, I swear I will sleep better than I have in 7 months. light everything you leave on fire. light myself on fire. cease to breathe. ii ; My mother hates you Equally as my father loves you Like the daughter he refused to have (She would have named her Chastity) iii ; I often have dreams of you baring teeth Shredding sheets pulled from corners of second hand mattresses before Men with questionable faces who already knew your answer. Do they understand what exorcisms require? iv ; He compares you to geodes I compare you to fossils It should be clear who can love you most v ; I still think that you will fall asleep in the bath if I don't break down the door.
AUTHORS Chloe MacPhee (pheespir.tumblr.com) is a Canadian high school student with great ambition. Vanessa McCombs (vmmccombs.wordpress.com) has traveled the world as part of the “Military Spouse Sightseeing” program, and currently lives in Germany. Along the way, she managed to pick up an MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia College and University, as well as several years’ worth of experience teaching college composition courses. Hayley Anderton has been writing for several years now, and is taking a degree in Creative Writing. She posts most of her works to Wattpad under the username Hazzer123. Her favourite genre of writing is dystopian prose. Michael Prihoda (michaelprihoda.wordpress.com, @michaelprihoda) is an artist and poet, living in the Midwest. He is the founding editor of the experimental literary magazine and small press After the Pause. Carly Gladstone (wwwgldstn.ca), a twenty-two year old Vancouver, Canada resident, aims for complete synchronicity within each piece of her poetry, leaving behind permanent fingerprints and a distinct tone that is all her own when she is done. Her work will appear later this year in 491 Magazine's late 2015 issue. Victoria Erdel's vignettes and poems have been published in numerous magazines, such as Spectrum, Cenzontle, and White Ash. She is a book blogger, and she also participates as a reader for various literary magazines. Dawn Locke is a self-proclaimed amateur authoress, working on several fantasy short stories, some of which has been published. She is currently attending school and enjoys spending time reading, adventuring, and playing with her cat, Chiron. Luana D’Angelo (singingmuses.tumblr.com, @singingmuses) is a Brazilian writer and this is her first publication. Vanessa Reiser is a high school girl from Nebraska who loves to write and listen to music in her free time. Most of her writings are in the romance genre, since that seems to come naturally to her. She is the girl behind the tumblr blog “From A Writer's Pen.”
Sammi Cox lives in the UK and loves writing and making things. She blogs at samiscribbles.wordpress.com. Ana Prundaru is a trilingual translator, currently working towards an MSc in legal sociology at Lund University. She has contributed creative pieces to The Citron Review, Gravel, Litro Magazine and Literary Orphans. Her debut chapbook is forthcoming from Etched Press. Florine Demailly is 25 years old and currently living in northern France, where she works as an administrative assistant. Punk-A-Cat is a student artist and writer who would like to make a living writing and illustrating graphic novels and children’s books. Ashley Nicole is a senior in high school, hoping to pursue a communications degree in college next year. One day, she hopes to be a published young adult author. Vianca Maldonado is 25 and currently living in Texas. She’s excited to share her work, for the first time ever. Pip Freeman (@literarypotato) is a London-based published poet and author who is hoping to study English Literature at Oxford University. She enjoys exploring themes of death, forgiveness, and retribution. Agatha Scaggiante (teleny-or-the.tumblr.com) currently lives in Brooklyn. She’s passionate about reading and writing, and is currently trying to expand and explore her love of both.
This issue showcases beautiful pieces written by people all over the world. It contains letters to strangers, lovers, communities, family me...
Published on Sep 1, 2015
This issue showcases beautiful pieces written by people all over the world. It contains letters to strangers, lovers, communities, family me...