As a writer, I always want mess & quake. I worry when I encounter the easy. "Fragments of Persephone" is important to me because when it comes to femininity, it seeks to be inclusive of the bloody, the contradictory, & the brave. These are the narratives we need: complex, strange, & interrupting voices. Today I chipped my front tooth. It was tiny, but enough to make me think of my mortality, how easy it is to break. I hope the poems in my series chip a small piece of the reader, enough to make them rethink their conceptions of the body, or war, or trust. What makes reality certain? Who decides & prescribes my lens? As a Queer Woman living with trauma & mental illness, I am often my own unreliable narrator; I am used to chips in everything. But this is where truth & dignity arise from - & too, true change: the gasp at the broken piece.
As a child of the Gulf War, an immigrant at a young age, an inheritor of mental illness, a Queer woman in a heteronormative landscape, a twice hospitalized & aggressively medicated body, my Self has long been fissured, challenged, & questioned. There is a war internal & a war external - the lines between them blur, burn, & smoke. At the same time, I am a blessed body. I breathe. In Hebrew, my name means Song. A God I cannot pronounce daily paints my vivid life. My poems are born of this inextricable sting & salve.
I often hear writers exclaim that there is “nothing more intimidating than the blank page.” I don’t feel this way & I never have. When I sit down in front of that white, open space, I feel safe. I am in the presence of a great friend. While there is so much to say that can never be said I suddenly feel a deep camaraderie with my own fragmentation. When the world is too tumultuous I sometimes unfold a blank page just to sit in its presence. This small mediation is counter to the war-on-everything mentality. There is no vigilant attack on the paper, no claiming of borders, no declarations of land. Cocooned inside such presence I am at peace: pliant, restful, fertile, & fiercely myself.
Shira Erlichman was born in Israel & immigrated to the US when she was six. Her chapbook "Advertisement for a Human Being" (Destructible Heart Press) - a personal exploration of mental illness & the socialized alienation of suffering - was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work can be found in BuzzFeed, BUST Magazine, Autostraddle, Muzzle, the Massachusetts Review, Union Station, The Reader, & The Bakery, among others. As a musician she's been lucky to share stages with Tune-Yards, Mirah, & Coco Rosie. She earned her BA at Hampshire College. She lives in Brooklyn where she teaches online writing workshops.
Photo by Nivea Castro.