by Marisa Adame
bones of my resentment rest under loose dirt
that cascades when i open my fingertips.
buried after far too long; the rattling of not good enough
shook my skeleton since i joined ranks with too-skinny girls.
they live there, the bones, under soft soil
aching to metamorphose into self-confidence.
they grew from the teardrops that seeped in every day after school.
the ground gurgles. my feet catch the vibrations.
catch rock // grow roots //
shy shoots shiver in the blowing wind.
at age 18, my first hook-up comments on my wide hips
and the curvature of my shadow. i hear the bones
rattle in the dry dirt of Texas and realize they are still there:
tears well // earth shifts //
the not good enough rattles my bone structure,
goosebumps stick out of my skin.
i thought i had paid off my dues
but the seedling structures
rupturing the ground
tell me i still have far to go.
some days are harder than others, but
the growing has already begun.
First published in Free Lit Magazine 2018.
Marisa Adame is a 22-year-old storyteller/creative from Dallas, Texas. She has acted internationally and is a two-time KCACTF Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship nominee. Her manuscript butterfly bombs, an examination of Latinidad as a first-generation-college student, was a finalist in Thoughtcrime Press’s 2017 Lorien Prize competition. Her current projects are a stage play exploring the tension between her colonizer/colonized bloodlines and a choreopoem weaving together themes of time, queerness, heritage, and mental health.
As for her style, she says, “I would say that I like surrealism, and I have a bias for narrative. I try to make my work imagery-driven, so the audience has to put themselves in the world of the poem to see how everything connects. I think the work I aim to create could be called bittersweet, since it’s a little more cynical but finds optimism to balance it out.”
Marisa and Bekah’s work–including the above poem–appeared together recently in Free Lit Magazine’s “Bildungsroman” issue. We wanted to know more about Marisa and her writing, so here is our interview with her.
Q~Tell us a little about “seedling story.” Is there a backstory you want to share?
A~I went to an all-girls’ high school, and I picked up some distorted thinking surrounding relationships with food/body image. I feel our culture’s tendency to tell women, particularly women of color, that our bodies are somehow inadequate is essential to keep in mind while reading. Another thing to keep in mind is the truth that some experiences aren’t something to get over as much as to navigate and re-navigate over time.
Q~How is the poem representative of your work?
A~“seedling story” is representative of my work as a piece that uses pain to excavate hope. Like much of my work, it moves through heavy moments instead of discarding them, and it tries to hit that balance of sadness and joy. It’s about the strength that comes through trial, which I value and put into my writing.
Q~Why do you write poetry?
A~I gravitated toward poetry because of its visual nature. I’ve always loved writing and finding the strongest words to describe events/feelings, and poetry came as a natural practice; once I started, I couldn’t stop. With poetry, you can guide and influence the audience. You, the author, decide when a line gets space to breathe. Also, poetry is specific to the author’s truth yet still malleable to audience interpretation, but more ambiguity is acceptable in poetry where it may not be acceptable in other writing styles. Also, poetry lends itself easily to unconventional imagery and wordplay, so it gives plenty opportunity to see things in fresh and new ways.
Q~You are also an actress & filmmaker. How do you balance your creative interests? How do they interplay?
A~Balance between all of my creative interests is something I’m still struggling to find! But I’ve found a pretty good set-up for now. Un/fortunately, I’ve been moving around a good bit recently and haven’t quite found a long-term base, so acting has taken a backseat. I’ve applied to a few agencies that may be open to working with someone semi-nomadic like me, and I’m waiting to hear back from them. Otherwise, I use one of my days off from work as a creative day split in half: mornings for writing projects and afternoons for film projects.
My creative interests definitely interplay! As an actress, I tend to gravitate toward more poetic scripts like References to Salvador Dalí Make Me Hot by José Rivera. I think my spoken word poetry background makes it easier for me to understand a character who speaks in metaphor. Filmmaking shares a lot with poetry as its power often comes from what is not said or shown, or what is only implied. Again, my poetry aims to be visual, almost like film in a way, and I think that’s because I’m a visual person. I aim to make poetic films someday, and I’m currently working on a screenplay that uses magical realism.
Q~Do you find yourself returning to certain themes or subjects in your work? What are they and why do they resonate with you?
A~I find the main themes I return to are mental health and legacy. My first two chapbook manuscripts dissect my mental health diagnosis and my relationship with others with mental health challenges. Because mental health does affect every aspect of life, it’s important to me to speak about it and work against stigma surrounding it. I feel the need to be very vocal about it because of the silence and stigma still surrounding mental disorders in Latinx communities, particularly the one I grew up in. I feel I wasted a lot of time feeling like something was wrong with me, and I find it important to write to let others like me know they’re not alone. Legacy is also interesting to me to explore, particularly definitions from others and from oneself. I feel most satisfied writing about the complexity of my heritage and am currently working on a few projects questioning my relationship to the colonizer/colonized sides of my family tree. I think a lot about when to use language, and when to use stillness, so I often edit and edit until the rhythm of a poem is evident on page. Some images I return to frequently are surrealism and dreams, and water and all of the implications they can have.
Q~What are your poetry likes/dislikes?
A~I love poetry that risks something. The poems that resonate most with me are from artists who are honest about who they are, where they’ve been, and how that’s shaped them into who they are now. I love poems that transport you to a new place and make you look at the world in a new way. I love poems that are worlds in and of themselves, that make you forget where you’re sitting as you read them. Some favorites are: “The Survival of What Remains” and “The Law of Halves as Applied to the Blade” by Michael Lee, “From the Desire Field” by Natalie Diaz, “Tell Them” by Carvens Lissaint, and Said The Manic To The Muse by Jeanann Verlee. I also love: “As of today, I have yet to put my hands on the volcano of my dreams.” by Joe Jiménez. I dislike poems that are obvious, and that prioritize raw feeling over craft. I dislike work that reads like a personal essay but calls itself poetry even when it has no imagery. I dislike poetry that uses trends for quick one-liners then discards them without making a larger statement or observation.
Q~What’s one piece of writing advice you want to share?
A~Practice finishing. Finishing projects, or even just drafts, is a skill, and you get better with practice. Follow an idea through until something is made. Even if you don’t do anything with it, you’ll have made it, and you’ll feel more capable to try again.
Q~There are lots of publications out there. What is a literary gem you feel deserves more attention? Why will we love it?
A~I highly recommend Winter Tangerine’s Reshaping the Bell Jar issue. A one-time occurrence to my knowledge, the issue is centered around “Illuminating Realities of Mental Illness” and features contributions from poets with mental disorders to reform the narratives surrounding various diagnoses. It’s a beautiful, poignant, well-crafted issue full of tremendous work.
Q~Who are you reading now?
A~I recently read and am still digesting Caitlin Scarano’s debut work, Do Not Bring Him Water from Write Bloody Publishing. The work is a story of haunt, heart, and grit. I was amazed from start to finish. She shares stories of trauma through the use of powerful and breathtaking images, and the result is a gripping book. It’s been receiving well-deserved high praise.
Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in reading more of your work?
A~ I put direct links to publications, whether online or in-print, on my website at marisaadame.com. One of my earliest acceptances came from Crab Fat Magazine, and my work can be found under my name. You can also find me on YouTube, Instagram, and on my official Facebook page.