I stare at the trees, watching them sway.

And yet, I search closer;

the way the branches fold in the shadows,

the pine needles bending,

melding to the wind.

And yet, I search closer;

closer, closer, impossibly closer,

to the mitosis of our cells dividing,

all at once beautiful and tragic.

Winter’s calm

Nighttime in winter, overlooking a part of the city that’s packaged as a moment of movement. I look out at the church across the street, illuminated entrance casting echoes of darkness along the cool earth. 

People still walk around the church, the library, the center square. Although it’s nighttime, it’s also only 4 p.m. Winter condenses the daylight into a few frozen hours, and that’s when the precious sun rays melt through the thick ice that holds the city in a deep breath. But now the darkness has claimed motion once again, and I watch the city slow down, a windup toy succumbing to the stillness.

If I were to take out my camera and record, this is where I’d do it: different voices slow into a sleepy mirage, made even slower by the chills of winter.  

Everyone I know says their least favorite time of year is wintertime. But I think that there’s a quiet beauty in watching the city sleep.

Behind me on the steps, a couple holds each other’s hands. Leaning into one another; sharing their warmth throughout. I’m sitting by myself in front of the library, and it just closed for the evening. My breath fogs my glasses, blurring the lines between buildings and smearing their lights into the empty, icy sky.

In one of the busiest areas of the city, I’m transfixed in winter’s calm. 

I can’t say no

A hospital waiting room

full of silent sickness

— a sour, curdled space. 

Meaningless sex. 

Distrustful, hesitant, weary breaths

hang in-between careless caresses.

I’m aware that if I breathe in too deep,

our slinking loneliness and desperation

might curdle me too.

So I become the bed

the sweaty sheets wrapping 

over your desolate thighs. 

I don’t think I like 

the way your mouth tastes, 

but I kiss you back anyway.

I’m a patient, 

waiting for my name to be called.

For some recognition of my 

fragile, fragile identity. 


Their ephemeral delicacy makes them glow like stars in the wandering breeze. Her arm doesn’t wave as high as it used to— arthritis claiming the freedom of her limbs. But she waves the bubble-gum pink wand slowly back and forth across the sky, painting the world with sweet, soapy bubbles. It’s been 25 years since her wife’s funeral. Gradually, the number of people who love her wonder has dwindled. So she calls to the skies, the earth, to claim her translucent, effervescent paintings before they


Passive intimacy

I first walked past the apple core

during a dreary morning way to work. 

The core of a bright fuji apple

looking artificial 

on the edge of a dull concrete bridge 

scattered with trash. 

Days passed

the core slowly wilting. 

A body without a burial

amidst littered humanity.

regardless of 

brittle winter new england weather 

rolling over 

that dull concrete bridge, 

the apple stayed.

“Who ate the apple?”

“Why did they leave it there?”

I wondered every morning.

We grew a passive intimacy, 

like strangers who share a bus route.

Familiar only in looks, fleshy stenches, and wrinkled skin.

From future you

Note: This is a real, unedited diary entry from when I was 16. The last part is my response, 6 years later.

Tuesday, March 29th 2016

“Will you take my soul in the midnight rain?” -Broken Lund

W.O.T.D. tessellate- to form small squares in a checkered or mosaic pattern.

So to celebrate my “sweet 16” I am going to go Christmas Carol and talk/write myself a letter to past and future me’s.

Dear past Julia,

I just want you to know so much, but if I tell you them I don’t even know if you’ll change (because I know you learn most by experiences). What I want to say first is that you should never conform to someone else’s wishes. Whether it’s Emma, Logan, or Maria. I know that you fit into their shoes to make them happy at your expense. And let me say, you will never be happy that way, only resentful. But learn to open up to new people, volunteering with people who are different than you. Along those same lines, don’t be mean to anyone, because you never know if you’ll see them again or just how profoundly you’ll change their life. Don’t give up on ice skating. My biggest regret is that I quit it; just ignore the judgment and follow your passion! TELL JACK TO KEEP HIS POKEMON CARDS! Emphasize to your parents the importance of learning a second language and an instrument. Don’t you ever EVER hurt another person. You will have had absolutely no reason to. Please keep a close bond with your brothers, you’ll miss them someday. Write letters to your family members. Letters are cute, they’ll love them. Never be afraid to admit that you don’t know something, and always love yourself. Love, future. 

Dear future Julia, 

It doesn’t matter whether this is read tomorrow if you’re bored or 27 years from now (if you even live close to that long). I hope you’re doing well, and trying hard. Maybe you’ve become fluent in Spanish and French! I really hope you aren’t too busy to read, because reading is so good. I wonder if you still love to travel, or if it’s begun fading away like an old postage stamp. Maybe you’ve managed to keep both seriousness and humor in your life, but have a balance of the two. I hope you have had a boyfriend who loves who you are and respects you. If not, then get the fuck out of the relationship. Don’t ask, don’t question, please just muster up the strength and get out. Do you still like anime, or has that faded? I hope you’re not an uninteresting person, maybe you’ve gotten over your awkward gait of talking to people! My voice sounds like a dead pelican, so I hope you have pursued the violin! Name your guinea pig Leonard. No matter the gender, Leonard the guinea pig takes flight. If you lost your passion for retro gaming, I hope you filtered it into something like pro activism for the environment. See you in hell. Love, past.

And so another day goes by… 

Signing off,


Dear Hipster-twister,

You’re such a weird one. Hipster-twister? What does that even mean? Honestly, it doesn’t even matter. I love it. I love you, 16-year-old Julia. Your words are heavily laden with compassion and empathy and sprinkled with a perfect amount of sarcasm. I love seeing the way you grow, the way your roots take hold of so many different interests. I am not fluent in either Spanish or French, unfortunately. But you’ll be glad to hear that my passion for traveling and reading has only grown deeper over the years. I do still enjoy anime—I’m actually watching Attack on Titan right now, they’ve just finished season 4 if you can believe it. I haven’t gotten over my awkward gait of talking to people, but I’ve also embraced it as part of who I am. You lament about this insecurity a lot, so I just want you to know that it’s not your fault that you have a harder time recognizing social cues, controlling your volume, and keeping a single stream of conversation going. I wish I could tell you all of the different ways your ADHD affects you so that you wouldn’t feel so alone. I never picked up the violin, it’s expensive and it requires a lot more brain work and training than I’ve had the patience to commit to it. But I have a bass and a ukulele, and I play them frequently. I don’t have a guinea pig but I do have a hamster named Toe, and he’s a curious wanderer who loves sweet treats (today he had a nice slice of papaya). I didn’t lose my passion for retro gaming, and I became more and more interested in the environment. Half of my bookshelf is just books about nature.

I am impressed by how self-aware you are. Because you’re absolutely right; throughout the last six years, I have continued to let people walk over me again and again and again. And it never has made me happy. There are times when I wish I would have re-read those words and your advice about love. But I suppose sometimes you have to go through the pain to fully understand the importance of something. Now I understand, and the last few months I’ve been dedicating myself to building up confidence. Setting boundaries still terrifies me. And rereading this diary has made me realize how deep into my core this fear rests. But I’m working on it. I’m getting better at it, slowly but surely. I know you’d be sad to hear that it took me this long. You’d be even sadder if you knew the amount of true heartbreak I went through to reach this point. But, I made it through to the other side, and I’ll never stop fighting. You taught me that you tenacious, awkward, sweetheart. Love, Julia.


A jumble of wandering umbrellas

paint splotches of rain inside the city.

Street gutters roll thick with wet garbage 

offering discarded philosophies to fat rats.

I dream of traveling in the spring

sunshine warming my soggy bones.

But the shadow of an alley drips 

shaping the portrait of an empty man:

“You’ve wandered too far from consciousness, my dear. 

It’s time to wake up.”

Grandma’s puzzles

As a kid, I spent hours digging through puzzles with my grandma. Putting together old-timey soda shop parlors and Rockwell Thanksgiving suppers.

Her wrinkled, careful, thoughtful fingers handed me a piece and always seemed to know the exact one I needed.

Over time, the jigsaw puzzle became its own form of communication. 

My grandpa recently retired, finally letting his aching bones rest after a long lifetime of labor. 85 years old, the majority of them spent on blue-collar jobs. He almost seemed afraid of retiring, afraid of allowing himself to exist in his own space. 

Last week, he did his first puzzle ever with my grandma. Letting her wrinkled, careful, thoughtful fingers hand him a piece. 

If he had done a puzzle with her sooner, I wonder if he would have retired so late in life. I wonder if he would have loved my grandma differently, sharing himself within her simple, unspoken love. 

North Dakota

Part one: Trains

When I think of New Salem, North Dakota, I first think of the trains. 

The trains that gave the slow town breaths, each exhalation of fumes a reminder of North Dakota’s excavated landscape; rolling plains, prairies, and badlands previously treasured by the indigenous Lakota and Dakota Sioux tribes (among others), now a place for the teeth of capitalism to sink its dirty roots into. Still, life has found a way to make this violent greed pretty. 

Growing up, I could tell the time of day in New Salem by the trains that came rumbling through the town, shaking the doors and windows of every 100-year-old house like an angry wind that demanded to be felt. 

Each time my brothers and I visited my aunt Carol who lived in town we would take pennies to the railroad tracks and set them on the metal rails. Then we’d wait by the steps of her porch until the train came, which thundered by with such a ferocious intensity that it seemed as if the world itself was being flattened. After the train finished crossing we’d come and collect the newly rolled-out pennies —with elongated faces of Abraham Lincoln and stretched out words “in god we trust”— faded on the side of the track. Such curious souvenirs. Sometimes I still wonder if the conductors ever knew they took a small part in making art. 

The last time I went to visit, it was just me and my mom. We got cheap Chinese food in Bismark and ate it while watching the sun set on my aunt’s porch, the train disappearing over the never-ending horizon.

Every time I see a train now, I think of New Salem. The trains that rumbled by as my cousin and I would take the sap from pine bark rub it on our lips —the sticky sour gumming our lips together as we giggled—, the trains that shook the wind chime on the back porch and gave the lonesome midnights a quiet song, the trains that swirled the lukewarm water my aunt mixed the bright red powder of kool-aid into.

The trains, a constant reminder of movement through time.

When the world ends, I can imagine the trains still running. Graffiti-covered cars still crawling along the long-faded horizon, rusted engines forever caught in their whirl of motion.

Part two: Salem Sue 

New Salem has, and has always had, a population of a thousand people…but don’t quote me on that. It’s not “technically 1,000 people”; people come and go, are born and then die. But when the most exciting thing happening in the town over the last decade is the installation of a new grocery store, there’s a thousand people living there. A small, painfully small town.

But even in towns as small as this, residents find a way to draw tourists in. Introducing Salem Sue: World’s Largest Holstein Cow. According to a coffee mug my mom has that lists all of the fast facts about Sue, she was built in 1974 and stands 38 feet high and 50 feet long. Sue towers on a hill that overlooks the interstate, the only hill in miles and miles of flat grasslands and hayfields. I remember excitedly pressing my face up to the rear-window of my mom’s minivan to see as much of Sue as possible before we pulled off the interstate to visit my aunt and uncle’s house.

So New Salem decided to surround its town identity in cow culture. They had cow themed memorabilia line the gas station shelves, called the high school sports team the Holsteins, and created a festival they celebrate every summer called the Cow Town Hoe-Down.

As I only have the memories of childhood from the lens of, well, a child, I don’t remember what the Hoe-Down had to offer adults. Probably something like beer, bingo, and cow themed knick knacks. But as a kid, the weekend-long Hoe-Down had everything fun you could ask for. A bouncy house with a slide that practically begged kids to get rug burn from sliding too fast down its cheap nylon fabric, an egg toss in the middle of the main street where partners would see how far apart they could stand and throw an egg to each other before their egg dropped and broke, and a parade where participants of the dairy farmers or firefighters float threw excited little kids (like me) way too much candy. 

And, if you got bored with all of the festivities, right down the road was the playground, with a rusted and wobbly merry-go-round, a silver metal slide that burned hotly if you slid on it during the daytime, and large metal sea creatures on thick springs that squeaked as you rocked on them.  

While I didn’t grow up in North Dakota in the same way much of my mom’s side of the family did because we only visited my aunt and uncle once every year or two, New Salem holds many of my most formative childhood memories. Whenever my family drove up the windy trail on the hillside to stand beside Salem Sue, I’d peer up at her 38 feet tall body in awe, my little body barely even the size of her hoof. And I grew up with her. Over time, she became a piece of my home.