“Words,” “Paradoxical Undressing” and “They Say Trauma Makes the Best Art”

In Issue 60 by Sabrina Herrmann

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Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Words

I didn’t like animals

until I started naming them.

The intimate knowledge

of a word,

a string of syllables,

made everything safe.

When I was 10

I wrote a dictionary of words

I thought we needed–

words that didn’t exist.

Huggle. Hattitude. Scrittle.

What do you write about

when you know nothing?

What do you call the feeling

when you’re on the rollercoaster

and your stomach drops?

Ruvious.

And getting ice cream at the carnival?

Fantabulous.

Last week I learned that

the Hawaiian alphabet

only has 12 letters,

and the ancient Greeks

had no word for the color blue.

Are 12 letters enough?

And how did the Greeks describe the sky?

We should have words for everything

so we don’t feel alone.

We need specific words

for the kinds of sad,

and even more for the kinds

of happy.

I want to tell you how I feel

and I want to be precise.

Because “good” isn’t enough,

and few understand what I mean

when I say,

I feel like lightning.

Paradoxical Undressing

It happens to hypothermia victims.

They become so unbearably cold

that their brain no longer functions correctly,

the only barrier between their impending death

traps a heat that burns them to their core.

Clothes come off, piece by piece,

encouraged by heat that is fake,

until they are bare. Naked in the snow.

Unable to shiver, for they are

frozen in time.

How can our body and mind

betray us so cruelly?

The only thing we can truly trust

but so delicate.

I can’t help but remember

every time I couldn’t

bring myself to eat, every broken

thought I’ve had about myself,

every moment I tried leaving this Earth.

Maybe that’s a paradox too.

Maybe I just need to thaw out

and I will feel like I belong.

They Say Trauma Makes the Best Art

For when the nights start to taste like table salt,

unrefined, sour, pale stained.

For the days when it hurts just to be human,

when you’re gasping for air,

when you don’t wake up to birds singing

and the sunlight peaking its way

through the shades.

Some days are sugar rush

and some remind you of how much

acid is in your stomach.

Some days the medication kills the colorful

parts of my brain, and some days

I’m afraid of no longer being me.

What I mean to ask is:

am I going to be ok?

This life was never meant to be a punishment.

About the Author

Sabrina Herrmann

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Sabrina Herrmann is an emerging writer who just completed an independent study at Gotham Writers Workshop in New York City. She graduated from New York University with a BS in Business and is applying to MA programs to study English Literature. Her work has been featured in Wingless Dreamer, Poets Choice, and The Closed Eye Open.