January 2016

I could not provide an answer,
nor could I gesticulate
as my veins curled similarly
to roundworms in cats’ rejection.

murmured the name of the medical scribe
but I stared at the doctor, pale
as the white coat I already sullied
with my lower middle class and ignorance.

flickering, the ceiling insulted the charity bed
that funds the frostbitten—frequent fliers
I could hear miles away,
for the morphine disappointed like decaf.

I wouldn’t return to work,
and that is what I wanted
but only in those hours
when I felt I did no good.

there was no pillow to clutch
and I had worn down all my brushes
used to glue together a quiet collage
of words in Helvetica you never meant.

I do not wish to taste
wet saltines of an awkward love
but I managed to sleep on thumbtacks
for a boy who had no time.

Pre-order Connie Undone on Amazon. Or, buy a signed copy from me directly for $12. 

Connie Undone is Now Available for Pre-ordering!

Hello, all! I hope you are well. I’ve been rather busy the last several months, but I would like to announce that my first novel, Connie Undone, is available for pre-ordering starting today! Officially, the paperback comes out on March 1st, but in the meantime, you can snag a copy on Amazon for $18.99.

If you’d still like to pre-order Connie Undone, but would rather buy a copy from me directly, let me know! I am selling signed copies to U.S. residents for $12, via Paypal or Venmo (@KristineBrown1918). If you live outside the United States, let me know, and we can negotiate on price. And, if you buy one of the first 250 copies, I’ll write you a poem on a subject of your choice! I can either email or mail you the poem, depending on your preference. Those who pre-order in the next few weeks should receive their copies of Connie Undone sometime in late February. 

And for those who like to exclusively purchase books via Amazon, just send me a screenshot showing that you’ve made a purchase, and I’ll still write you a poem!

Here’s a brief teaser for Connie Undone:

“Where do you find these people?”

This question was all too common concerning the events of Connie’s summer right out of college. Some people asked this sympathetically, while others shook their heads in pointed disapproval. For Connie, things weren’t going as planned. But in several months, she would learn to accept that detours, in all their uncertainty, laid a necessary foundation for a budding plan unseen.

For more than a decade, Connie often felt that she lived in a dull city, but was scared to venture out. We could attribute her self-sheltering to social anxiety and several years of codependency. Connie Undone seeks to dwell not on the negatives of what happened after a first serious breakup, but rather, documents the beginning of life after college, and one’s path towards self-reliance and acceptance.

***

Thank you for your kind readership. Writing is always wonderful.

– Kristine

Birthdays

I don’t remember my birthdays. This is only to be expected, for I never had a birthday party, save for the time when the ratio of adults to children was eight to ten. But I realize it was just a ploy for my parents to announce my sister’s conception, amidst balloons, strawberry ice cream, cake, and my telling the camera, “I already have this!” as I held an Asian Barbie doll that slightly looked like me. The last party, and the last helium menagerie of short-necked giraffes bobbing along the sidewalk, sighing for air.

Exactly two months from my birthday, two years ago, I sat with a friend to catch up. She rolled her eyes, scolding lazy construction workers she almost ran over on her way to see me. The line across her lips was just as deliberate, her brows pigmented diagonally as I talked about ending my relationship. The only thing she had to say was “Think of your future.” I ran through the list as I always did, treating each item as if it was happening for the first time. Of course, only to me. His parents inquired about my finances more so than my own, the mother suggested I didn’t take care of him as we divided our cooking duties, and the father predicted I’d dance with Congressmen, share their suites, deny my clothes. This is what happens when girls with boyfriends continue their schooling out of state.

I showed her the text messages. And him too. Not the boy who gave me grief a good sixteen months after the breakup. Just a person with whom I developed a silly fascination with, someone who made me believe movies like A Beautiful Mind are historically accurate, that I could do anything in the wake of my twenties, that love motivates us to do what we never thought ourselves capable of. The lady whom friends jokingly referred to as my “big sister” could only shake her head as I insisted, “But it’s love!”

“You’re giving this unnecessary attention.”

Eyebrows rose as conversations stretched. Twenty minutes, sixty minutes. Three hours and fifteen minutes. “I’m sorry to interrupt,” a staff member barked, dropping a pile of copies on his desk with a scolding thud. She’d interject again to hiss, “Stop harassing her!”

“She’s not my student, so I suppose she’s fair game.”

His wordings and mannerisms were muddied enough for me to unearth, given my already existing difficulties in discerning attitudes and reactions in general. When he stamped his foot on the ground with a shudder, biting his tongue, blinking hard, I had a good idea. No one receives a pull on the trigger with a smile, and once that trigger’s pulled, no one lingers to provide a monologue with all the facts and details you need to write your review by the deadline.

I couldn’t comprehend the granola bars, coffee, the cute bacon sandwich. Offering rides as I walked to a bus stop five minutes away. You wonder, “Why would he waste his time?”

Additionally, the insistence on keeping in touch. “Let me know what you decide to do.” “Thank you for telling me how things are on your end.” “Hopefully we’ll catch up one day.”

When I came to visit many months back, my phone shook in my purse. One of my former instructors giggled. “And what does _____ say?” “_____ doesn’t text. In fact, he doesn’t really care for phones.”

“And you know this how?” The embers which singed my ears without a thought for private discipline revealed as much.

The last time we saw each other, it was over trays of sushi. He professed a fear of shallots as my tongue rested on slabs of avocado. A sliver of seaweed settled between my teeth and he only stared, hands clasped to mouth. I thought to bring up my friend, who wasn’t dancing with a Congressman, but someone kind of comparable.

He tapped the pinewood with a black chopstick. “We shouldn’t talk about this. But did I ever tell you our conversations remind me of the ones I have with my sister?”

I crunched on a sharpened ice cube, my forehead meeting his glance more so than my kohl-glazed eyes.

“No, no. I mean, it’s not like they’re the same. But they’re similar. And that’s a good thing. You remind me of her!” The clasp remained tight against a budding grin.

“I text people at 2 a.m., only for them to text me to go to sleep. I’m rather inconsiderate.” Similarly, my tone grew brusque, my back no longer cushioned against my chair in what was a state of calm.

“And she calls me at 3 a.m., which means it’s really 5 a.m. where she’s at, and it’s always about something work-related.”

“I always say it’s a good story.”

“Yes! She does that too!”

“But at this point in life, we can do that. Do whatever we need to do the next day, forget about the party three hours before, you know?”

“Yes, I remember that time. Maybe you two should exchange emails. You’re really a lot alike.”

My forehead glistened, while the cherry blossomed lamp swung back and forth, threatening to fall and oust the mango ice cream in its porcelain bowl.

“No. Well, you’re different, but you do remind me of her. She turns twenty-seven ten days before New Year’s but we never did anything because, you know, Christmas and the stuff that comes with it. I’m buying her something today.”

Thankfully, he didn’t have to drive me this time. Home was a ten minutes’ walk, headphones blaring annoyances only Fiona Apple could sing about.

Two weeks later, as the office packed their bags to embark on winter’s vacation, my colleague handed me a yellow envelope.

Hurriedly, I tore the paper, and opened a high gloss card with a koala’s head concealed in a bucket.

“Your birthday is never a secret!” He scrawled niceties below.

I remembered my birthday that year, and the sear of misunderstanding.

a positive side to this

you must have knocked
nearly a dozen times
and with those confessions,
opinions I shared,
you might have wanted
to know some more
about a girl
who was more than confident
she would marry a cat,
but you entertained
some slim possibility
of showing me
“a positive side to this,”
that being so far,
studious, yet typing
paragraphs of hypotheticals
at two, sorry, three
in the morning humidity,
you could not possibly hurt me
and I could very well
offer the most favorable appraisals
that your exes left you
regarding the curves of your pistol,
shining sincerities in our
soda can moonlight
the way we imagine
monogamy should glisten
across the full lower lip
of an actress selling beer
as if it were sweet sangria
or some aloe vera fragrance in a bottle,
petite like a frugal waitress
determined to carry a dozen plates.

milk for the cereal, and vice versa

say hello to the girl at the
grocery store.

she grabs the brand of milk
you use :: all-time favorite
frosted wheaties soaking in
a chilled bowl of soy.

you are the boy, avoided.

the aisle persists in its
wide declaration – your
footprints following sighs
and the ragged breathing
one only hears when
the other has stumbled.

she never truly forgot
and regulars could attest
to loud discontent
locked in bent cans
rolling down, down –
further down.

metal rods clanging
against vineyards
on new glass.

the lids disappeared.

regardless, you both
spend every Friday
racing to the corner, a
lopsided box with
creased flaps, eyelids
reproached for looking
ahead and away.

shopping carts collide
and curse in light rainfall.

Cat No. 121 of the 500 Cats Project

conventional nothings

told to pack your bags, I guess.

whatever they contained, no one
remembers. perhaps they’re
lost in a dandelion thicket, paper
airplanes’ missing wings stuck
on the roof, or further broken on
sidewalks leading to a gas station
that grows in its barren longevity.

I feel that everyone already knows
that some books sell without the
last page. coffee stains reveal
more than we’d hope to awaken to
while the rain misses its quivering
targets. we’ll see there’s another
flash flood warning, and agree that
a lot of people shouldn’t be talking
on roads, or water that’s not wet.

doublespeak and jewelry hang from
wrists as you point at the breathing
sky, its grayness so dark. maybe “you”
means “we” in proper sense, etiquette
taught some time ago with too many steps
to follow before ten o’ clock p.m.
only the unseen speaks the nicest word,
but letters never leave closed mouths.

we all need an umbrella.

Cat No. 118 of the 500 Cats Project

letters from North Texas

you promised me letters and yes,
they were delivered.

so much meaning to a girl who
never had a birthday party, as
birthdays near Christmas bring
enough cheer as they come to
recover snowflakes’ edges so
rounded and spliced within life.

you had a point when you said
I could use a spine, and not the
kind between glossy covers with
cherry blossoms, peaches, the
hope that graced my evenings
before you came home to speak
of yet another disappointment
that could only emerge from my
off-white inexperience, marred
further by old crayons I still hide
beneath my almost-bed, these
almost-goals refusing to say they
are done with me, my failures in
following through with plans that
look so pretty on the porous face
of “Thank You” cards I wanted to
send, and for some reason, I did
feel that I owed you one, as well
as the signature that no one could
read in high school; they told me
to re-write it, or simply provide my
initials because we weren’t signing
anything the President reads, just
like I would be folding your grayed
boxers dusting every inch of some
up-to-date gadgetry you felt you
were entitled to, as entitled as men
should be to that perfect woman
I was, wasn’t, but could be if I only
took it easy on that small bright pint
of cookie dough ice cream, and all
the sugar I thought would stay, atop
my tongue that welcomed and asked
you to stay because you said I was
different, and I thought that this alone
was enough to fall asleep, a grin so
wide and hands enjoying the calm
of two admired breasts, awaiting an
admission of your follies and a pledge
to be yourself, to do away with deeds
you’d only distrust as an obligation.

I tore up each and every letter today,
realizing I’ve had enough time.