The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Fever Dream/Take Heart by Valyntina Grenier

NEROLI

Lost echo
an arching sigh
Segments of citrus
your love is mine
I trace a helix over your sleeping eye
The tips of a trident
lift me
I float on my back
my arms spread wide
as I course out to sea
beseeching Chaos/ infinity
Help me
What is it
The embarrassment
the fulfillment
What
A sinister whorl


In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, this selection comes from the book, Fever Dream/Take Heart, available from Cathexis Northwest Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Rivera.

Valyntina Grenier’s FEVER DREAM / TAKE HEARTmarks a poetic “double debut” with a tête-bêche chapbook, two titles bound upside-down with two front covers (featuring paintings by Grenier), which can be read from either side. The poems shape their sense from sound, but do not hesitate to critique/navigate/decipher reality with a feminist protest. Associative and dreamy, the poems also prove to be starkly political. They explore how we are miraculously alive in the midst of degrading political and weather systems. Some of the poems derive their initial lexicon from source texts, but they all confront the tenderness and violence that mark our human natures. With subtle humor, word play, and linguistic inventions, Grenier has written a surprising tour de force whose discrete short books, taken together, range from the sexual and sinister to the prayerful and divine.

Nilsa Rivera Castro writes about women with a socio-economic disadvantage and the effect of trauma, hearing loss, homelessness, and violence in their lives. Her work has been featured in Huffington Post, 50 GS Magazine, Six Hens, The Selkie Literary Magazine, LipServices Miami, Writing Class Radio, and The Cream Literary Alliance. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram at @nilsawrites.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Fever Dream/Take Heart by Valyntina Grenier

CREATION MYTH

He tells the child about the turn of the seasons
about seeds and how flowers rise
Her chest compresses against the bathroom sink
He gazes in his eyes jerking and panting lies
See it’s raining he sighs
+
As I touch the bleeding swords of the sun
I say as I climb
through the scorching front seats
I’ll drive
to the center of the sun
to save our lives
I leap stone steps
built into the curve of a tower wall
to find my self dreaming this life
I run screaming to my mother’s side
away from a future
adolescent me
revolving slowly in a cave
w/ rays of light streaming
from my mouth nose and eyes
Fetal light like the tip of my toddler finger
translucent over the power light
on my great grandmother’s electric organ


In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, this selection comes from the book, Fever Dream/Take Heart, available from Cathexis Northwest Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Rivera.

Valyntina Grenier’s FEVER DREAM / TAKE HEARTmarks a poetic “double debut” with a tête-bêche chapbook, two titles bound upside-down with two front covers (featuring paintings by Grenier), which can be read from either side. The poems shape their sense from sound, but do not hesitate to critique/navigate/decipher reality with a feminist protest. Associative and dreamy, the poems also prove to be starkly political. They explore how we are miraculously alive in the midst of degrading political and weather systems. Some of the poems derive their initial lexicon from source texts, but they all confront the tenderness and violence that mark our human natures. With subtle humor, word play, and linguistic inventions, Grenier has written a surprising tour de force whose discrete short books, taken together, range from the sexual and sinister to the prayerful and divine.

Nilsa Rivera Castro writes about women with a socio-economic disadvantage and the effect of trauma, hearing loss, homelessness, and violence in their lives. Her work has been featured in Huffington Post, 50 GS Magazine, Six Hens, The Selkie Literary Magazine, LipServices Miami, Writing Class Radio, and The Cream Literary Alliance. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram at @nilsawrites.

Lyric Essentials: moira j. Reads Joy Harjo


For this installment of Lyric Essentials, we are joined by Sundress author moira j. They read poems from poet laureate Joy Harjo, and talk about the role of storytelling in indigenous poetry. Thanks for reading!


Erica Hoffmeister: What is your personal connection to Joy Harjo that led you to read her poetry for Lyric Essentials?

moira j.: Joy Harjo is the first Indigenous poet I was ever introduced to, my first connection to seeing how storytelling could be done on our terms through poetry. Her book, “Map to the End of the World” was the first poetry book I read outside of school and I instantly felt bonded to it. Her and her work have been integral to my creative landscape since I was a child. I cannot imagine a world without her work.

EH: Of Joy Harjo’s expansive body of work, why did you choose these two poems?

mj: These poems have been sitting in my mind recently. To think of the ways my people, and Indigenous people all over the world, have survived or haven’t survived these apocalypses of settler colonialism and all its violence. I think it’s necessary to look at the ways in which we interrogate the systems that have displaced and dispossessed our people, and the methods in which we continue ceremony and connection to each other. This includes questioning the ways America is seen as America by settlers and non-Indigenous people who may benefit from settler colonialism now.

moira j. Reads “An American Sunrise” by Joy Harjo

EH: How do you think it’s important to experience Harjo’s poetry read aloud?

mj: Her work has unshakable cadence, the ways in which she utilizes line breaks has such concussive force. I love being able to feel the way in which her words form landscapes, the low valleys to high peaks. She is one of my favorite poets to read aloud. 

EH: There is a particular line from “Perhaps the World Ends Here” that reads: “It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human.” Do you make use of that concept of what it means to be human in your own writing, or in your newest poetry collection Bury Me in Thunder, specifically? 

mj: Storytelling in my community, and so in many others, is a reflection of humanity itself, to explain or process the situations we’ve encountered since time immemorial. Bury Me in Thunder specifically looks at how we are made through intergenerational trauma, the experiences of our family members, and how we process our individual life events. In the case of the book, it was the ways in which I came to terms with grief and healing through these facets, and how it reinforces, instead of diminishes, my humanity as a transgender, Indigenous person.

moira j. Reads “Perhaps the World Ends Here” by Joy Harjo


Joy Harjo is member of the Mvskoke (Creek) Nation and belongs to Oce Vpofv (Hickory Ground). An acclaimed poet, musician, playwright, and activist, Harjo was named the 23rd U.S. poet laureate, becoming the first Native American to serve the position. She is also the chancellor of the American Academy of Poets, directs For Girls Becom­ing, an arts mentor­ship pro­gram for young Mvskoke women, and is a found­ing board mem­ber of the Native Arts and Cul­tures Foun­da­tion. She is the author of nine books of poetry, two award-winning children’s books, and a musical play. As a poet, she is best known for writing about vast landscapes and incorporating indigenous storytelling and histories, and social justice traditions into her work by exploring the violence of settler colonialism and the reclamation of her heritage. Awards for her work include: the Ruth Lily Prize for Life­time Achieve­ment from the Poet­ry Foun­da­tion, the Acad­e­my of Amer­i­can Poets Wal­lace Stevens Award, the New Mex­i­co Governor’s Award for Excel­lence in the Arts, a PEN USA Lit­er­ary Award, Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund Writ­ers’ Award, a Ras­mu­son US Artist Fel­low­ship, two NEA fel­low­ships, and a Guggen­heim Fellowship, among others. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Further reading:

Purchase Joy Harjo’s book How We Became Human
Read NPR’s feature, announcing Joy Harjo as the first Native American U.S. poet laureate
Listen to an interview with Joy Harjo, from the Academy of American Poets

moira j. is an agender writer of Dził Łigai Si’an N’dee descent. They were the winner of the 2018 Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize and were Frontier Poetry’s 2019 Frontier New Voices Fellow. Their work is published/forthcoming in The Shallow EndsWILDNESS, and Black Warrior Review. They currently live with their partner in the occupied Massachusett homelands of Nutohkemminnit (Greater Boston). Their debut poetry collection, “Bury Me in Thunder” (January 29, 2020) is out now with Sundress Publications. You can find more of their work at www.moiraj.com.

Further reading:

Purchase Bury Me in Thunder from Sundress Publications
Read Frontier Poetry’s interview with moira j.
Follow moira j. on Twitter

Erica Hoffmeister is originally from Southern California and earned an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English from Chapman University. Currently in Denver, she teaches college writing and is an editor for the Denver-based literary journal South Broadway Ghost Society. She is the author of two poetry collections: Lived in Bars (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), and the prize-winning chapbook, Roots Grew Wild (Kingdoms in the Wild Press, 2019). A cross-genre writer, she has several works of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, articles and critical essays published in various outlets. Learn more about her at http://ericahoffmeister.com/

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Fever Dream/Take Heart by Valyntina Grenier

KITTEN AND CROCODILE

The soft nape of her neck
Woman and god
another rape another child
Why are there twins
Why does it thunder
We make this wind
its wrath


In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, this selection comes from the book, Fever Dream/Take Heart, available from Cathexis Northwest Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Rivera.

Valyntina Grenier’s FEVER DREAM / TAKE HEARTmarks a poetic “double debut” with a tête-bêche chapbook, two titles bound upside-down with two front covers (featuring paintings by Grenier), which can be read from either side. The poems shape their sense from sound, but do not hesitate to critique/navigate/decipher reality with a feminist protest. Associative and dreamy, the poems also prove to be starkly political. They explore how we are miraculously alive in the midst of degrading political and weather systems. Some of the poems derive their initial lexicon from source texts, but they all confront the tenderness and violence that mark our human natures. With subtle humor, word play, and linguistic inventions, Grenier has written a surprising tour de force whose discrete short books, taken together, range from the sexual and sinister to the prayerful and divine.

Nilsa Rivera Castro writes about women with a socio-economic disadvantage and the effect of trauma, hearing loss, homelessness, and violence in their lives. Her work has been featured in Huffington Post, 50 GS Magazine, Six Hens, The Selkie Literary Magazine, LipServices Miami, Writing Class Radio, and The Cream Literary Alliance. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram at @nilsawrites.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Fever Dream/Take Heart by Valyntina Grenier

WE’RE POSSIBLY OUT OF CAKE
our brainstay
Tomorrow earth clear skies /w
degrees of intervention and departing no
spontaneously combusting selfblind
a chance of embitterment or cathexis
I feel it arriving something fast
making against some same
Sine and rain we condensate
Think of beads of mist gathering
along the outside of a water glass
Cool down against them and we do
have a pool
on some deeper hunter from go


In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, this selection comes from the book, Fever Dream/Take Heart, available from Cathexis Northwest Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Rivera.

Valyntina Grenier’s FEVER DREAM / TAKE HEARTmarks a poetic “double debut” with a tête-bêche chapbook, two titles bound upside-down with two front covers (featuring paintings by Grenier), which can be read from either side. The poems shape their sense from sound, but do not hesitate to critique/navigate/decipher reality with a feminist protest. Associative and dreamy, the poems also prove to be starkly political. They explore how we are miraculously alive in the midst of degrading political and weather systems. Some of the poems derive their initial lexicon from source texts, but they all confront the tenderness and violence that mark our human natures. With subtle humor, word play, and linguistic inventions, Grenier has written a surprising tour de force whose discrete short books, taken together, range from the sexual and sinister to the prayerful and divine.

Nilsa Rivera Castro writes about women with a socio-economic disadvantage and the effect of trauma, hearing loss, homelessness, and violence in their lives. Her work has been featured in Huffington Post, 50 GS Magazine, Six Hens, The Selkie Literary Magazine, LipServices Miami, Writing Class Radio, and The Cream Literary Alliance. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram at @nilsawrites.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Fever Dream/Take Heart by Valyntina Grenier

CAPILLARY ACTION

Fish in bird flight
the whistle blows
one lonely boat
turns on the sea


In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, this selection comes from the book, Fever Dream/Take Heart, available from Cathexis Northwest Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Rivera.

Valyntina Grenier’s FEVER DREAM / TAKE HEARTmarks a poetic “double debut” with a tête-bêche chapbook, two titles bound upside-down with two front covers (featuring paintings by Grenier), which can be read from either side. The poems shape their sense from sound, but do not hesitate to critique/navigate/decipher reality with a feminist protest. Associative and dreamy, the poems also prove to be starkly political. They explore how we are miraculously alive in the midst of degrading political and weather systems. Some of the poems derive their initial lexicon from source texts, but they all confront the tenderness and violence that mark our human natures. With subtle humor, word play, and linguistic inventions, Grenier has written a surprising tour de force whose discrete short books, taken together, range from the sexual and sinister to the prayerful and divine.

Nilsa Rivera Castro writes about women with a socio-economic disadvantage and the effect of trauma, hearing loss, homelessness, and violence in their lives. Her work has been featured in Huffington Post, 50 GS Magazine, Six Hens, The Selkie Literary Magazine, LipServices Miami, Writing Class Radio, and The Cream Literary Alliance. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram at @nilsawrites.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: All We Knew But Couldn’t Say by Joanne Vannicola

I needed the silence. The page and pen became my friends, my confidantes, my soft place. It would be the one place where my thoughts, voice, politics, ideology, and identity could exist freely.

I believe that I will be okay. I believe that using my life for the purpose of helping others matters. That creating space and being okay within my own skin matter — being authentic and vocal, emotional and present, trying new things, and even if I fail, getting up to try again. And if I am lucky, I will learn many lessons and rise to as many occasions as present themselves. What exists in me now is the belief that I can make a difference, that my story and life experiences have value. I have much more to do in the world. Art, writing, poetry, music, film, and self-expression matter.

In my deepest place, I go to gratitude and love. It’s love and hope that keeps me motivated, the idea that there is so much more out there. And there are so many young people who have it right, like the Parkland students and young feminists and intersectional queer kids who are ahead of my generation culturally and politically, who are invested in the equity of race and gender, of embracing our differences, and of helping the planet and changing the world. So many beautiful souls.

It is impossible to continue without mentioning the Me Too movement and the women who are bringing awareness to sexual violence and rape. Brave women such as Anita Hill and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and, in Canada, women like Lucy DeCoutere — warriors who stand up in the face of hatred and fear and speak out regardless.

Historically, there has always been backlash against women who stand up and against any movement that threatens the power of those who hold it, that tries to right the wrongs of oppression: misogyny, racism, homophobia.

We will win these battles one day. We need to believe that.

As writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde said, “Revolution is not a one-time event.”


In honor of National Women’s History Month, this selection comes from the book, All We Knew But Couldn’t Say, available from DunDurn Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Rivera.

Joanne Vannicola is an Emmy award-winning actor, author, and advocate. Vannicola is the chair of outACTRAto, the LGBTQ+ committee at ACTRA Toronto, and sits on the sexual assault ad-hoc committee for women in film and television. Vannicola is the recipient of the Leslie Yeo award for volunteerism (2019), and the recipient of The Margaret Trudeau Advocacy Award (2020). Joanne founded the non-profit organization, Youth Out Loud, raising awareness about child abuse, sexual violence, youth rights, and LGBTQ+ equality. http://www.youthoutloud.ca All We Knew But Couldn’t Say, was released in June, 2019, and has been featured as the Top 21 memoirs to read in summer by Bustle magazine, and was featured on The Next Chapter by Shelagh Rogers, the Toronto Star, the Globe, CTV mornings, NOW Magazine, The Girly Club, and the Lambda Literary Reviews. They are currently co-developing a new series, and working on their second book, exploring themes of LGBTQI homelessness. You can learn more at: http://www.joannevannicola.com. Or on Twitter or Instragram: @joannevannicola

Nilsa Rivera Castro writes about women with a socio-economic disadvantage and the effect of trauma, hearing loss, homelessness, and violence in their lives. Her work has been featured in Huffington Post, 50 GS Magazine, Six Hens, The Selkie Literary Magazine, LipServices Miami, Writing Class Radio, and The Cream Literary Alliance. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram at @nilsawrites.

Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Emily Bradley

I was supposed to be in med school by now.  Actually, I suck at dissection, so scratch that.  I’d have probably wound up in a lab, looking at nice, sterile slides under a microscope.  Science was the plan. It had rules and tangible logic, a promise that greater study would positively correlate with greater understanding.  In high school, I was the everything AP science kid, the never-missed-an-exam-prep-session kid, the kid who origami folded what looked like a voice out of textbook pages and prayed it never got wet.  But then, of course it did.    

Perfection is a dead end.  A perfect test score ends in a zero, is applauded and then silenced on a transcript to be filed away.  I was a size double zero senior year of high school, the ideal anorexic for four and a half years by that point, not sick enough to demand attention, not well enough to quit walking round and round the same cul-de-sac whittling my stomach down.  I could achieve these goals, but without fresh air they would decompose into a dark garden inside me one day.

My cousin killed himself during the fall of that year. He was twenty years old. We were never close—spread across the eastern half of the U.S., my extended family typically gathers only every three or four years for a requisite wedding, graduation, or, in this case, a funeral.  Nonetheless, the image of his powdered face and overstuffed chest flash flooded my years of panicked perfectionism, dissolved carefully pleated calorie charts and diagrams of cellular respiration into bits of colored paper, arranging themselves into some visceral understanding of why he did it. Suicide—by gunshot, poison gas, alcohol, and silence—had marked both sides of my family tree, and I knew that no equations or scholarships could keep it from blossoming in my imagination as well.  Stuck in my cul-de-sac, I needed something open-ended. So, I started writing.  

It didn’t fix me.  I was bad at it, but I also learned how to honor imperfection.  My first poems were collections of teen angst clichés – hearts, oceans, and all – but poetry taught me resilience.  I started college as a biological engineering major, and by the middle of the first semester I switched to English and Spanish. The more I studied, the less things made sense.  Once, I wrote an entire paper about how I didn’t understand Ezra Pound, and that was okay.  

Junior year, I decided to seek professional treatment for my eating disorder and writing became a tool to free lies that had lain silent at the bottom of me for years.  I still struggled, still panicked watching my years’ worth of rules and self-control dissolve as I learned to cry open-ended instead of running in circles to numb out. But I learned to love open-ended too.  To give myself to others in a way that didn’t fit neatly into an equation; no matter the numbers, there was always some remainder left. And the better I learned to care for my body, the stronger my voice became.  Eventually, I heard about something called an MFA and decided to apply to graduate programs in creative writing (my undergraduate university didn’t offer a CW program).  

Graduate school has pushed me to rethink much of what I thought I knew about learning.  It’s introduced me to writers whose work has entirely shifted my relationship to language.  Poetry workshops have shattered my ideas about reading and writing and how a classroom can function.  Moving from a rather insular community in Arkansas to a new city stretched my sense of self in unexpected directions, and here I’ve found a group of writers and friends who continually teach me what it means to be fully human.   I’ve met mentors who honor my voice but also call me on my bullshit and push me to put my truth rather than just my intellect on the page. And I never would have guessed how hard that would be.  

So, I wasn’t born with a pen in my hand and a song in my heart.  Sorry if that’s what you were expecting. Hell, I didn’t even sing along with the radio as a kid.  But I do now. Writing taught me how to break patterns that would have tethered me to a legacy of silence and slow destruction.  Slowly, I’ve built a voice that’s no longer paper-thin, and it’s taken me far away from that old cul-de-sac, though I’ve still got farther to go.  

Emily Bradley is a second year MFA candidate at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she teaches and serves as the assistant poetry editor of Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts.  She loves poetry, falling asleep on the couch, and the color yellow.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: All We Knew But Couldn’t Say by Joanne Vannicola

I HELD ON TO MY SECRETS about my mother in feminist circles. I had to. No one talked about women who hurt women. I didn’t want to take away from the larger conversations about sexism,
racism, or male violence against women, but when I started to ask or mention the idea of women as perpetrators, I was chastised. It kept me out of the circle, unable to speak to it because the space was
needed to talk about misogyny. I understood because I felt the same way, except I needed to be silent once again, even though I wanted to fight the women who screamed at me, and on a few occasions I did.
“It doesn’t mean I hate women because they hurt me. I know what it’s like to be hurt by men.” I wanted to say It’s not my fault. It wasn’t, wasn’t my fault that I carried my mother on my back, all
the shame she heaped on my shoulders. I apologized for exposing it when I heard things like “It’s so rare, there aren’t even any stats” or “It’s not the same.”

I wasn’t comparing, and if it was rare, then I was rare but just as real.

But it wasn’t healthy to apologize for a history I had no part in making. They could not hold on to my reality while battling sexism; it inspired a rage in others I didn’t know what to do with, so I apologized.

Women could not let go of their ideas of the struggling mother or the good mother or the abused wife, and the narrative I presented took away from that focus. But people forgot the context — that men and women who grew up in violence or abuse were not immune to repeating the patterns of abuse simply because they might be female. We hadn’t been able to get the culture to acknowledge that sexism and male violence were at the core of so many of our struggles as women, so to expose the abusive woman, the abusive mother, was just too much for many.
Women may live in a misogynist culture, but so, too, do women have power over those more vulnerable: children. We do no one any good by believing we do not have power, or power over. Just
as my mother had been an abused girl, had been victimized by the province she grew up in and the rules of her generation, she, too, had power over her children. All of this was true at the same time.

I couldn’t allow myself to feel invisible, not after surviving both my parents, not after the journey to get to where I had arrived. It had been a lifetime of trying to tell. I could not speak when I was a
child, could not find words as an adolescent, had nearly died from starvation while trying to tell the world about my mother and my father, and had almost erased my lesbian identity to keep others
safe, to not rock the boat, to fit into the industry. It had been a lifetime of secrets. I could not allow my reality to be dismissed in order to protect someone or something else anymore.

Every woman I met carried their experiences in their bodies. It was in every face and story shared, even by the most stoic and brave of women, the toughest women or butches, even those who
had killed men or had been in prison, whose armour cracked and who shed tears while recounting the wounds of homophobia, hate, rape. I presented an unusual and complex reality without reference for others, which made it difficult to believe and hold.

So I found solace in silence again, the safest space.


In honor of National Women’s History Month, this selection comes from the book, All We Knew But Couldn’t Say, available from DunDurn Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Rivera.

Joanne Vannicola is an Emmy award-winning actor, author, and advocate. Vannicola is the chair of outACTRAto, the LGBTQ+ committee at ACTRA Toronto, and sits on the sexual assault ad-hoc committee for women in film and television. Vannicola is the recipient of the Leslie Yeo award for volunteerism (2019), and the recipient of The Margaret Trudeau Advocacy Award (2020). Joanne founded the non-profit organization, Youth Out Loud, raising awareness about child abuse, sexual violence, youth rights, and LGBTQ+ equality. http://www.youthoutloud.ca All We Knew But Couldn’t Say, was released in June, 2019, and has been featured as the Top 21 memoirs to read in summer by Bustle magazine, and was featured on The Next Chapter by Shelagh Rogers, the Toronto Star, the Globe, CTV mornings, NOW Magazine, The Girly Club, and the Lambda Literary Reviews. They are currently co-developing a new series, and working on their second book, exploring themes of LGBTQI homelessness. You can learn more at: http://www.joannevannicola.com. Or on Twitter or Instragram: @joannevannicola

Nilsa Rivera Castro writes about women with a socio-economic disadvantage and the effect of trauma, hearing loss, homelessness, and violence in their lives. Her work has been featured in Huffington Post, 50 GS Magazine, Six Hens, The Selkie Literary Magazine, LipServices Miami, Writing Class Radio, and The Cream Literary Alliance. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram at @nilsawrites.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: All We Knew But Couldn’t Say by Joanne Vannicola

“We have received a complaint about you both,” said the director of the program at George Brown College. Elia and I were taking some courses together and had both been summoned.
“You’re kidding, right?” Elia asked as if she already knew why.
“What for?” I asked.
“There was a complaint about your kissing in front of the school.”
“Are you serious?” Elia asked.
I didn’t say anything. For the first time in my life I had a girlfriend who was demonstrative, who didn’t hide her lesbianism and did not care what other people thought. Fuck them. I had a right to kiss outside like other young lovers did. Being gay was no longer a crime under the law. If we wanted to kiss, that was our choice.
The meeting with the director didn’t last long. She knew she had no right to ask us to hide.
“Let’s have a kiss-in,” Elia said when we were outside again,
looking around at all the other students who shared programs with us. “I wonder who the homophobes are?” Elia and I looked for straight couples. Were other people kissing, holding each other?
Was someone looking at us with a scowl on his or her face?
“Kiss me now,” I said to Elia, making sure we were as close to each other as possible, facing each other on the steps in front of the main doors with our hands reaching out to one another. We kissed as if it were our wedding day.
After a long kiss we walked back inside the school and went to class.
We made it a rule to kiss as often as we could on campus. Other people would just have to deal with it. We hadn’t committed any crime, and unless kissing was going to be regulated for all students in love, straight and gay, then we would kiss every chance we had.


In honor of National Women’s History Month, this selection comes from the book, All We Knew But Couldn’t Say, available from DunDurn Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Rivera.

Joanne Vannicola is an Emmy award-winning actor, author, and advocate. Vannicola is the chair of outACTRAto, the LGBTQ+ committee at ACTRA Toronto, and sits on the sexual assault ad-hoc committee for women in film and television. Vannicola is the recipient of the Leslie Yeo award for volunteerism (2019), and the recipient of The Margaret Trudeau Advocacy Award (2020). Joanne founded the non-profit organization, Youth Out Loud, raising awareness about child abuse, sexual violence, youth rights, and LGBTQ+ equality. http://www.youthoutloud.ca All We Knew But Couldn’t Say, was released in June, 2019, and has been featured as the Top 21 memoirs to read in summer by Bustle magazine, and was featured on The Next Chapter by Shelagh Rogers, the Toronto Star, the Globe, CTV mornings, NOW Magazine, The Girly Club, and the Lambda Literary Reviews. They are currently co-developing a new series, and working on their second book, exploring themes of LGBTQI homelessness. You can learn more at: http://www.joannevannicola.com. Or on Twitter or Instragram: @joannevannicola

Nilsa Rivera Castro writes about women with a socio-economic disadvantage and the effect of trauma, hearing loss, homelessness, and violence in their lives. Her work has been featured in Huffington Post, 50 GS Magazine, Six Hens, The Selkie Literary Magazine, LipServices Miami, Writing Class Radio, and The Cream Literary Alliance. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram at @nilsawrites.