From the start I have learned that confidence is the most important aspect to embody when you are a writer. I wasn’t going to be successful unless I believed in myself. The process of becoming a writer was difficult for me, as I had to realize self-worth and self-love in order to grow. If you don’t believe in yourself, it doesn’t matter how many people tell you how great you are. You have to believe in your abilities and your voice in order to blossom.
curtains escape from
i held our palms together
as the radiant dances through
blushed against his cheekbones i can feel the calm waiver with trembling fingers blind with rage
to scribble my imprisonment
behind my eyes i see this
no method behind this delicacy
dripping along his mouth
it’s making love
red is the kind of
pigment you’d find in the sand
the dirt that swirls in the air and between
hot tears are made of this
it stains your insides
can’t i go there again?
fairly certain it’s where my soul found the earth and where my mother found herself lost inside
the mountains digging through and up we went to find the
maybe i’ve lost too many
don’t take another
how many times do i have to
cuts my palms
it runs deep blue and green splashing in my veins
this isn’t soft yet
edges are cracked
i spend hours searching
sifting through beaches that
fall through our
these soaring waves are nothing compared to the part of me that is enlightened by her smile that
brightens as blistering dream washed ashore with
we watch through the misted window
she is aimless
i wonder if she will ever be
seep through the
buckling fractures of
stray shadows of eyelashes
across his chest
i belong here
she helped me plant
along this empty garden
she cried pink for the rose of sharon she lived next to in the nursery and for months she
mourned for her lost sister please don’t leave me for she is only
he watered them every day
leaked through the window
i can still hear their
i couldn’t sleep in that room
the walls spoke to me
will i ever be the same
i used to feel the wings of the butterfly and match her freedom of the wind but now there’s
nothing in this earth that makes me
of their dancing inside my nightlight
a pounding heart grows stronger
rustling branches outside
aren’t the only thing i hear
should i have spilled
but i’m safe now
To Miss the Palm Trees
He tells me, while we lay together,
almost naked, but not quite.
With quiet desire in his eyes
that he misses the palm trees the most.
He longs for the blistering sunshine
and the thundering storms that carry
heat and purple lightning
through the scorched lawns and seashell driveways.
He tells me, as he kisses me gently,
as he holds my face in his hands,
that what he misses most are the
He aches for the salty sunsets,
and the sparkling white sand
on the beaches where he lay
as a child,
each passing day.
He wants to feel me against him,
like the waves did in the middle of day,
brushing lightly against him,
a comforting caress.
A sunburn everlasting on his tanned skin,
he wants to feel my tender fingertips
like he felt those palm tree
leaves blowing fiercely in the wind.
He misses the palm trees, I know.
The yellowed photographs
hidden away in the closet
show his squinted eyes
as he grins,
with a sunscreen slathered nose.
But still, endlessly,
he tells me,
he misses the palm trees the most.
The same way his fingers became sticky
with melted orange popsicles,
or the watermelon seeds
he’d spit across the beach.
Before we’d fall asleep,
he’d whisper in my ear
all of the things he wished he could
Such as the water of a shower
that never seems to be cold.
Or the endless blue skies,
the bright beach umbrellas.
He wishes he could tell me about
how the searing pain of pavement that’s much too hot
feels on the sandy bottoms of your feet.
And the dolphins that chased him along the shore
each day when he woke just a little too early.
He tells me when we wake,
I thought the sunrises I saw reflected on the calm waters each morning
were perhaps the most beautiful sight I could ever see.
But that was before I met you,
and before I missed the palm trees.
Webster’s Little Brother
I want to tell you about the only boy who ever stuck around. I want to tell you about the blonde hair on his head and how he always says I love you before we say goodbye. I want to tell you about his mischievous laugh and his undeterminable strength.
I lived here first. And last. And always, it stayed in my heart. This place was engraved in my soul. There were parts I could never leave behind. The winding dirt roads and flood of farmers in the fields were just as much a part of me as they were this town.
This wasn’t just a town, it was a home. Everywhere I looked I found a relative or family friend. Years would pass before the graves were cleaned, but I never stopped visiting them.
The greenhouse where my mother worked in 1995 can be seen over the horizon, a gleam of misted sunlight.
This boy was rude, annoying, unlike any other. He pulled my ponytails and threw sand in the holes of my ripped jeans. But he was kind: an old soul, if you will. There were times when I hated the sight of his smug crooked smile. But no matter how much I despised sharing my toys with this monster, none of it mattered, because he is my little brother.
This is the house I lived in when my parent’s relationship fell apart. With its peeling gray siding, we couldn’t help but love it. It didn’t matter if the floors creaked and groaned with every step, it was enough to know that my grandfather built it with his bare hands.
It’s where Christmas was celebrated with a new engagement ring. My parents thought maybe it would fix things. It didn’t.
We had nowhere else to go six months from that snowy celebration. She was leaving and so were the children. He deserved to be in that house alone.
This chimney is tall, it glints in the sunlight, and I must learn from its bricks how to be stable. How to be upright. My parents couldn’t see it’s solidity. My parents couldn’t see past the things that made them different, the things that made them angry and sad and far from happy. My parents love each other, that has never changed. But in this house, I was taught how to be in love, and how to fall out of it.
We were taught in fourth grade about the Meeting House. That soul shattering dam the government forced upon our little town was ruining yet another treasure. Tear it down. Or move it. That’s the impossible. But with just a single horse turning the capstan, foot by foot, this building moved. From up the hill and through the woods, across route 127, they moved. The Trustees protect this Meeting House with their hearts, with everything they’ve got.
My little brother needs protection. He is gentle, and he is sweet. He understands more than what I give him credit for. You see, my little sister is strong. She is independent, she never needed me the way he did. They were intertwined. They were unmistakable. They were two eggs, one womb. Then one day, everything changed. They went from beautiful siblings, to being full of hatred. Just one day, just like that, they were no longer inseparable.
I need to be with him. His brilliantly soft blonde head is too bright for this world. It gets knotted and dirty much too quick. Am I the only one who can protect his chubby dimples? He always cries to me, weeping against my shirt. How can I comfort something that not ten minutes ago was yanking at my hair and kicking towards my shins?
The answer is in this house. I saw in a town report that this house sat on 1.92 acres of land. Can I see everything we own? The forest is too dense, too thick. We climb and we crawl.
My little brother and I are adventurous. We stand mighty on this hill, on this leaf scattered and acorn smashed hill. In this house, we are too much. We are too strong and too clever. Even this 1.92 acres can barely hold us. This town is not big enough for his imagination. He spins stories and I realize when I am older than he is just as much as myself as I am. He is our mother, he is our father.
One day, while we are away, my little brother wanted to play. I don’t want to play with little kids. You’re a little kid! I’m a big kid and you’re too babyish to play with me! He is sensitive, but he does not cry.
Along the riverbed, we sit. Amongst the sunshine and the trout, we sit inside this Swimming Hole. The one William R. Pearson died for in Vietnam in the spring of 1972. Our legs curled up underneath us, our necks bent, faces crammed in books. Although this town has aged him, and his hair is no longer blonde, he is bright. He is the sun and everything that is warm. I am dark, I am the deepest of the ocean and highest in the sky. They say we have our mother’s eyes. His are almond and blue, mine are wide and gray. Eyelashes paint shadows along our cheekbones.
This house was where my mother grew up. I thought it fitting to return for my education. As I gather my belongings into the old red room at the top of the stairs, I see remnants of her. I see her there as clearly as I am in this mirror. This cracked and dusty and finger smudged mirror. I hang my tapestry above my bed. I can’t find a bare spot along the wall that hasn’t been poked and prodded just to hold New Kids On the Block or maybe Kirk Cameron. Her hairspray still lived under the bathroom sink, and I can’t remember the last time this gray and fluffy carpet was vacuumed. But that didn’t matter. Because I was living in this house. I was living in this town. I was with her in this bedroom. But I wasn’t with him.
He joined a karate class a year after I did. That was in 2012. I quit before I had even excelled to the next ranking belt. His Sensei thinks he’ll be a black belt before he graduates high school.
Our mother has green eyes.
This town is empty, and this town is loud. The river screams to me as it’s dam blocks the rushing flow of energy and fascination. I read somewhere the long list of unlucky families that were paid to have their houses torn down, to make room for this god blessed dam. That was in 1940. I guess it’s saved the government a lot of money, in the past seventy-five years. But what about those families? Where did they go? Did they leave this lonely town for a bustling metropolis twenty miles south? Did they leave to find a town where their memories weren’t paid to disappear?
White ash trees have been dying for fifty years and nobody seems to bat an eye. Did you know Stebbins Store didn’t have electricity until 1936?
My little brother just got back from Puerto Rico. He is tan and he is handsome. I am startled when I realize he looks just like the man I see in my older brother who lives inside the everglade forest of humidity. I haven’t seen him for four years. Has it really been that long? It was before life got complicated. Before I could drive, before I got braces, even before I realized what I wanted to be when I grow up.
But if you really think about it, even with this town as inspiration, I ask my mother everyday why I can’t decide where to go and what to do once my diploma is presented. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t seen my older brother. Or that my little brother looks just like him. He doesn’t have the same eye color. Or even the same curling locks that swirl around his ears. My little brother has straight gleaming teeth, and shiny glasses. But when I look at him, when I hear him speak, it is a tear in my heart. They are one.
I don’t know who John Little is. His name is all over my town. It is written so deeply in this earth that a hundred years could pass and every smiling resident would still know about his beautiful barn that burned to the ground.
Sometimes I wonder how different my life would be if I were with him. This red front door I walk through every morning and every night is old, but still holds tight everything that is threatening to fall apart. I don’t see him every day, my little brother. I don’t see him every week, but he is with me, and he is with this town.
I thought maybe if you knew more about my town, the town I loved, it would make saying goodbye even easier. But maybe one day I won’t have to leave. There are people out there, those who don’t live in my town. They say I want to leave this place. Go far away from New England and its horrors. They think I’m crazy for staying, but they don’t know what it’s like to live in Webster, or to leave their little brother.
In what way(s) do you identify yourself as a woman writer?
I am often exploring the dynamics within my family. There is a generational connection between myself, my mother, and my grandmother. As a woman writer, I feel a responsibility to my womanhood to capture that connection. I think I am lucky and privileged enough to grow and prosper in a world and society where I don’t necessarily have to identify myself with such specificity. My great-grandmother was a poet and she loved to write, and unfortunately, she passed away before we could bond over our mutual love for creativity. However, the environment she lived in was harsh and unproductive for a woman writer. She barely self-published and didn’t further her career because of specific standards that surrounded women in the mid 1900s. There is such a broad opportunity in front of me that I can embrace without difficulties because my environment is not necessarily oppressive or silencing because of how or what I write. Although, I must add that being a student and a novice writer has protected me from particular prejudices or negativity.
Whose voices have you carried with you for creative strength in order to arrive at this point in your writing career?
While I am still building my repertoire of influential writers to follow, I can easily identify people in my life who have inspired and given strength to my journey. My family is of the utmost importance to me and how I have arranged myself in my writing. Their unending support keeps me motivated and emotionally prepared for the things I’ve written as well as the things I want to write about. As far as woman writers, Elin Hilderbrand is one who inspires creativity. She creates strong female characters who embrace their individuality, sexuality, and personal freedoms. It is not only her characters that I’ve carried with me, but the beauty in which she intertwines a sense of comfort into her setting: Nantucket Island. Although my writing career is still in the beginning stages, I hope to one day evoke in my readers the feeling of pure joy that Hilderbrand does in me.
What do you want our readers to know about your process of becoming a writer that might be helpful in further articulating their own individual process and growth?
From the start I have learned that confidence is the most important aspect to embody when you are a writer. I wasn’t going to be successful unless I believed in myself. The process of becoming a writer was difficult for me, as I had to realize self-worth and self-love in order to grow. If you don’t believe in yourself, it doesn’t matter how many people tell you how great you are. You have to believe in your abilities and your voice in order to blossom. You have to put yourself out there, and that includes the pain or the ugly scars you want to keep hidden. Being a writer is about opening up yourself to others.
As a writer, I am an artist. I open myself to the empty page, daring to release my individuality. Anybody can tell someone about the happiest moment of their life, but being a writer, being an artist, it’s all about the ability to be vulnerable. Exploring the beauty within my experiences, my realities, my truths, are what make me an artist.
Elizabeth Brannigan is a creative writing student at New England College. She is eager to explore the opportunities that will arise for her, as she is still in the first stages of her writing career. She has had work published in The New Englander and is particularly fond of writing poetry.