Issue No. 17, Summer 2016


Entering your room,
my eyes begin to water:
allergy? Epiphany.

Paper scraps, un-discarded cards,
crumples, crumbles, heaps, receipts.
Dead father, gone girlfriend, broken up band.
Ceiling fan cringing under curse
of cobwebs, thirteen empty beer bottles: all your luck,
run out. Every light dust-drowning,
curtains closed forever, so the neighbors can’t see you
dying gently every night in TV light. Filth that fills—
stuff that kills.

Stuff: pushing down, filling up, shoving into
cavity or crevice. Negative space
either way: gray area: the whole of you.

Learning stuff can be a shield, and a mess
no less than armor. How I wear a full face
of caked makeup, how we pierce and paint our skins,
stuff ourselves or binge and purge to bone. Attempting
our own burial. Dying to become invisible
under all the stuff.

Tomb, catacomb. Suffocating under stuff,
doing stuff that doesn’t fit, stuff filling space.
While you’re living in filth I’m painting my face.

Covering the essence of ourselves.
For you it’s dust, for me, powder—
we all have it—
our stuff.

Julia C. Alter hails from Philadelphia and has found home in Vermont. She is a writer, birth doula, social worker, and conscious dance facilitator, among other things. Her poems can be found in Wag’s Revue, Keep This Bag Away from Children, and Clementine (Unbound).