We are all beating

We are all beating

Walking is an something I return to a lot
I once read we walk at the rate our heart beats
And create a cacophony with the ground
That matches the organ keeping us alive
Imagine if we all would walk in step
The earth would be one huge heart
Vibrating with the beating of billions 

On walks I see a lot of leaves
Always in winter and I want to imagine
each leaf inside has a tiny heart
That pumps water and nutrients and juice
Through each capillary 

I see squirrels and pigeons and gulls
I think of their beating hearts
The continuous rhythm
That propels one squirrel on her circuitous round.

A heartbeat moves in a cycle of seasons
Offering hope when all has gone awry and
the next day is so far away
Our hearts beat steady under our skin
Invite a beginning with the end of each step
A terrible chance
To liberate the me
from my four walled room
And flex my toes and think of gravel paths
That my feet can wander.
I like to begin
fresh from the next beat
And follow each route
my heart wants me
to feel and to see
the million hearts beat
the leaves and the trees
Tug me on a thin thread

Hannah Udall

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Love of Community: bell hooks’ continuing resonance

bell hooks’ influential All About Love has become somewhat of a handbook for many since its publication in 2000 as we try and understand the ever-perplexing subject of love. With each chapter hooks dissects a different aspect of love, spanning from personal romance to political justice. Her text, thereby, embodies the now highly popularised, originally feminist concept that the personal is always political. 

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a game to play when you can’t find the strength to shower

when you’re feeling down

and don’t know how to take care

of yourself, go to where they sell plants.

quiet your heart. let the smell

of their freshness fill you.

reach out and touch their leaves.

one will find you.

don’t force it to, just

let it commune with the hurt inside you.

take it home. find it a spot in the sun.

water it, feed it, nurture it, let it grow.

let it take care of you as much as you

take care of it.

by august (in the wake of) dawn

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I am not queen of my own heart, stop telling me I should be

The first thing I do when I wake up is assess what I’m going to be capable of that day. I check in with my body, how much pain I’m in, and where the pain is most intense. I check in with my nerves: how anxious am I? How exhausted? And I check in with my mind: how coherent are my thoughts? Sometimes my brain fog prevents me from doing anything that requires much thinking. Sometimes I’m simply too tired or fed up to consider ticking anything off my perpetually growing to-do list…

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I carried out an interview with Door Ajar Comics after reading their first publication, WHEN I DREAM IT FEELS LIKE DROWNING. Their fascinating, heartfelt and brilliantly insightful answers explore inspiration for the work; personal experiences; narrative development; horror as a genre; readership, and much more.

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Can you walk down the street without being aware of your body? Simple question. And I don’t mean the physicality of walking. I mean feeling reduced solely to a body. If you can, you are, most likely, a man. A woman only has to walk down the street braless, or wearing something mildly short or low-cut, to be instantly reduced to a body. To flesh to be ogled by whoever feels so inclined. This may sound like an exaggeration, but, trust me, it is not. Every single time I leave the house wearing clothes that I feel comfortable in, I am leered at (or worse) by at least one man. Actually, whatever we are wearing, we are still not left alone. I’ve been harassed wearing ‘going out clothes’, but just as often I’ve been wearing dungarees. It is about the men, not the clothes, and pretending we can change our clothes to reduce harassment gives a false sense of control over our safety.

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Identity and time

The confrontational question ‘what advice would you give to your former self?’ is usually met with angst, an awkward laugh and regret. Perhaps this is just me, but the initial jerks of discomfort I feel when I think about my younger self is mostly down to how different I think I am. There is a strong dissociation between that person then and the person I am now, and the most prominent difference between the two is the way I view myself as an Indian person. 

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Dear Pre-Pandemic Me, Things are about to get hard again…

Everything around you is going to change. Significantly. You’ve felt loneliness before but not like this, this one is different. It’s going to be tough for a while but you’re going to emerge from it happy with your own company. Some days I have to work on it harder than others but you come to realise that you are enough as you are and that just showing up is okay…

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Dear Pre-Pandemic Me, Get ready for a wild few years…

The years coming will challenge you in lots of ways but they will make you stronger and appreciate just how many people you have around you. The pandemic makes you sit back and look at who and what are important to you, you’ll howl with laughter despite everything and realise that your parents are actually pretty awesome to spend time with…

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Dear Pre-Pandemic Me, Don’t ever shrink yourself again…

You started well, but you got lost.  You realised the importance of community; a community you connect with.  In the absence of love, you turned to appearances in a desperate attempt to change your circumstances.  It did not work.  You met the wrong people and did the wrong things, but it was not a waste.  But it did feel like it…

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Yellow is the warmest colour,
It crowns the buds of trees which create an ornate bower consecrating your grease and grime filled nest, 
Lying on your head,
Happiness and yellow usually reside in similar company,
But happiness with you is a deep crimson,
A thick skinned purple blotch – 
Staining my skin like a malignant bruise,
You seep into every pore, boiling my sweat so it scolds melanin,
Bleaching me to a powdery white,
Perfuming your air with the scent of burnt flesh,
Pulling my spirit into focus,
Because as I know – 
Purple is your favourite colour on me.

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My roots are complicated
I do not think they can be defined 
or bound to one certain place
The more I move and meet new people 
little parts of me are left around
Sown carefully and lovingly 
in places I adore
and people I care about 

I am no longer sure if I know where home is
but I am loving that life is taking me down 
an unknown road 
but an exciting one 
and I will enjoy and treasure every step of the way
Learn from the downhills 
grow stronger and kinder and caring
and cherish the uphill
knowing I am turning into the woman I was meant to be

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Bouncers and Biases

On that night I was outside with the bouncers doing bag checks while also keeping an eye on them, as bouncers  in general have a reputation for their bias against minority groups. So there I was, nestled in between two large and looming men in black wearing a pink beret and red lipstick. It was a terrifying sight indeed. 

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End (?)

I read a whole novel this morning, 

An hour before heading in. 

I did all the dishes from breakfast,

You hoovered and I did the bin.

The walk from the meeting was freezing, 

But I’d bought new gloves last time you came, 

Two people who knew me from James Joyce alone, 

Asked me about changing my name.

I’m finding it strange to be calm now,

My body’s not quite sure it’s true.

But books still surprise me and gloves are still warm,

There’s dry forks and filled forms, and you. 

By Levi J. Richards (he/they)

This poem is inspired by ‘The Orange’ by Wendy Cope. To see more of Levi’s creative work, check out @doorajarcomics on instagram.

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A young man walks across the snow,

Which creaks and breaks with every step. 

Far off, 

A grey-haired woman holds her face up 

To a sun that drips gold; 

A future, suddenly, 

Which stretches out before him —

Complexity unravels

Into sun, and face, and cold;

And benches ringed with mud, 

And time enough to grow old. 

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