childhood archeology / Teenage Fever Dream
By Amanda E Musmacher & K. A. Jagai
These are two poems that reflect back on our younger selves.
their limbs bounded together by plastic,
the small, hard, creatures
were lined up, feet digging into the wearing carpet,
the carpet carrying the fur of my cat, the dirt of my mother’s shoes,
the secrets the walls kept enclosed in one room.
i was a paleontologist at age 5,
marching my dinosaurs to the bathtub on the opposite
end of my apartment. they were going to drink
the infected waters, dirtied by grime, rust,
the taste of a decaying home.
i dream of myself, sweeping the small
brush across the dust, digging up
sediment, burying the dead
bugs, my friends.
scooping the dirt out of my landlord’s flower plots,
and leaving the reminiscence of my memories—
pebbles i had found on my walk home from the bus,
letters i wrote to my father, the paper ripped
from the pictures i drew of him,
scratched x’s across his eyes.
how i found serenity
in the dimly lit alleyways, throwing lighters
at the concrete wall.
the pop would be startling,
but the puff of grey smoke that arose
reminded me of the exhaust that clouded my mother’s lips
as she exhaled.
there was no product to be seen on tv
to alleviate how much my mother had to scour the countertops,
her acrylic nails lifting, turning yellow
from the suds and her cigarettes,
but could clean up the
we always found ourselves in.
despite her attempts at scrubbing the checkered tiling in our kitchen,
there were stains that never went away,
crumbs never sucked
into the vacuum machine, leaving small lines of feasts
for the roaches to munch on
when we turned out the lights for sleep.
the sounds of the neighborhood’s inhabitants kept me awake—
the nest of newly hatched birds taking shelter in my wall
chirping at any hour of the day.
the windows were large, displaying
wet tar on the empty street,
as the nighttime creatures crawled out
of their slumber for the day.
awake and ready to navigate the dark, to find
a scurrying roach to devour as a midnight snack.
and when i would awake in the dead of night—
scared to let the monsters in—
my dinosaurs came to life,
nibbled on my toes,
and kept the cockroaches away.
Teenage Fever Dream
We’re half awake on Houston
and it’s 3 a.m., so you tell me
just stay the night, come on. No one’s
home. Cold metal under bare toes
etches the mark of the fire
escape into the calloused skin
on the bottom of my feet.
There’s a burn in my lungs from the bright cherry
lingering at the end of your death stick
and the sound of the radio echoing up from
the street below: skateboards and screaming
and an empty soda can kicked
into the gutter by an errant foot of wind.
You and every stupid kid wants
to live forever—buoyed by the drugs or
the drink or the sex or whatever
it is that keeps you up at night
pulse screaming in your veins so
loud you can’t even hear yourself
trying to count the headlights
scrolling past the buzzing ceiling fan—
but we know nobody lives forever.
Not us, and not the beautiful people
and not the ageless leather-crusted
denizens of St. Marks’. Even heroes
have got to die, sometime, even if they
come back shiny and new and
the same as they ever were, but not
quite. Not yet, anyway—now
every window is bright and the sky
is dark and the night is warm
and breezy and the city
roars its life like a living creature.
More than anyone, She knows the score—
She’s been reborn fourteen times
and will be again and still She has it
in Her to scream—smile, baby. Isn’t it grand?
To be young and alive and in enough pain
to know for sure that you’re living.
Meet the Pair
Mentee Amanda E Musmacher & Mentor K. A. Jagai
Mentee’s Anecdote: While I looked back into my childhood for this piece, Kat wrote from the perspective of their teenage life, a time from when they were my age. Both being queer, young individuals, with many overlapping experiences due to these identities, navigating how to reflect upon younger versions of ourselves was something that was very inspiring for me. As I am able to look at Kat as an older peer, as someone who has made a living off of their love of writing, I’ve seen that there are futures for queer kids, and those futures are not so far away.
Mentor’s Anecdote: Being Amanda’s mentor has been an honor. It’s been amazing to see how the experience of being a young queer is both the same and radically different, all of which obviously defines and informs our work in different ways. Gen Z is so much more on top of things when it comes to gender identity and queerness, and it’s so inspiring to see how engaged the new generation is. I’m delighted to be a part of their journey as they discover who they are, both as a person and as a writer. I look forward to watching them grow.
My mentor and I did a writing exercise in which we swapped songs and wrote while listening to them in a free-write style. They sent me the song “Hymie’s Basement” by Moonhead, while I sent them “Blew Away” by Smashing Pumpkins. We found intersecting themes of reminiscing upon days earlier within our lives, as we both drew from experiences and moments we witnessed. These poems are a product of our current selves finding foundations in the ones of the pasts.
Amanda E Musmacher is an artist living in Queens, New York. Their art consists of written work, photography, illustration, and music. They try to capture the essence of what city life entails and the effects of living in such areas.
K. A. Jagai is a queer and multiracial editor, writer and artist from Brooklyn, NY. They are a graduate of Bennington College. Their work has appeared in Frontier Poetry, Electric Literature, Thank You for Swallowing and elsewhere. In both art and writing, they are seeking that light within themselves and others that can only be seen when one is forced into the dark.