For my story, many of the side characters have horns. Some families have particular horn shapes. A group of people has horns based on the beaks of tropical birds, others on comets and glass. Some horns float, and others can move like attached spider legs. It’s fun to come up with all these concepts.

her kind: ghost of

ghost of: diana khoi-nguyen

“There is no ecologically safe way to mourn.”

Diana Khoi Nguyen begins her poetry collection, Ghost Of. The book, a finalist for the National Book Award, explores the weight of grief through the loss of her brother. Nguyen captures the cyclic nature of life and grief with grace. Terrance Hayes describes it as “steeped in the poetics of exile and elegy.”

This is one of my favorite poetry collections of all time. It’s a brilliant book with visceral imagery, imaginative poetic structures, and threads that tie the whole collection together beautifully.

The way Nguyen’s titles her poems  this: Overture, Reprise, and Coda illustrate the collection’s ties to music and sound on a fundamental level. In the foreground, imagery like “pattering rain,” “neighbors upstairs spilling rice across the floor,” and “an alarm goes off” create an aural awareness in the reader. Ideas of music are pursued further in lines such as:

“What may exist between appearance and disappearance, between sound and silence, as something that is nearly nothing—slow music, quiet music, spare music— of sound and form I fell asleep tonight” (Triptych)

“Harps strung with gut still make music after 2,000 years.” (Future Self)

And perhaps a core line of the whole collection, as well as one of my favorites:

“There is nothing that is not music, the pouring of water from one receptacle into another” (Triptych)

Nguyen uses the poems titled Triptych and Gyotaku to experiment with form—there are three of each. Gyotaku is a traditional Japanese method of printing fish that dates back to the mid-1800s. The Gyotaku poems vary widely in how they’re arranged, but I chose the one below because I love its simple elegance—and again, there are themes of sound and music present. Nguyen’s poems sound and feel like music themselves; in this collection, each poem is its own brief elegy. You can see an example of it off to the side, and a sample of her take on the art form below.




The Triptych poems take up three pages: one is a family photograph where her brother has been cut out, the second fills the negative space of her brother with a poem, and the third fills out the positive space a poem, almost like a frame. Her use of form paints negative space so vividly, along with the sensation of absence. You can see how the poems are laid out below:



I hope these poems brought a bit of inspiration into your week, regardless of your artistic medium; Nguyen so deftly shows us how closely intertwined artistic disciplines can be. I encourage you to view her poems on Poetry Foundation if you’ve enjoyed this brief look at her work. As always, thanks for reading!

OTM #16: Waiting / Music

Happy Tuesday yet again! I’ve been reflective as of late, arriving up to thirty minutes early to classes just so I can sit in the empty halls and stare at the wall. It’s become sacred to me; my music becomes the forefront of my focus rather than a backdrop, and I picture animated sequences moving with the song’s notes. I used to use Flipnote Hatena every day growing up as a kid, an animation program that came free with the Nintendo DSi. It was my primary motivation as an artist; there were thousands of young animators that would post their work there, animation trends, short stories, and more. Because of Hatena, I discovered all sorts of music and animation styles. It was really popular to animate original characters to songs in pseudo-music videos, and I would often make my own. I’d sit in silence at sleepovers, drawing frames over and over again, listening to the same 3 second loop of Carly Rae Jepsen trying to animate my warrior cat persona. It’s something I have, in a way, carried with me into adulthood; I listen to music with the intent of seeing an animated, silly music video in my head. So, with these minutes before class, it’s been really helpful for me to allow myself to go back to that childlike mind and simply sit with the music.

Have a great week, everyone! Thank you for reading.

Sagas Among the Arcana: The Plague Doctor, Part IV

If you’ve been reading since the start of the arc, thanks for sticking around! This will be the final part.

It continues in a commanding murmur. “So what do you expect of me?”

The blank black eyes bore into him. He wants to walk back further — run, anywhere away from here. But he remains in his spot, locked by invisible chains. 

“I expect you to help my mother.”

“And that is what I will do.”

The Ten of Cups is drawn — family, similarities, peace

When the doctor first came, Robert had noticed dark skies blanketed with grey clouds. The grounds were already damp from a previous downfall and he worried that they’d soon become so wet that he’d drown if he dared to step out.

Now, it has yet to flood, and Robert wishes it would so he could drown. 

Has he done something wrong in letting this strange “doctor” in? He can’t bear to look at what it’s doing to his mother — he doesn’t want to know. And he may never know because everything is silent. Is that creature doing anything at all?

“How much do you want her to live?”

The crow-creature’s voice startles him.

“What do you mean?”

“How much do you care about her?”

Robert shifts his weight between his feet.

“She’s my mom.”

“I know — but how much do you care?”

He immediately turns around. Its hands are pressing around his mother’s face and upper body. 

“Why do you need to know that? What are you going to do to her?”

He steps forward. The creature’s hand is on her chest —

Her un-breathing chest.

. . .


This is not what she wanted to happen. Her movement across the woman’s chest becomes frantic. Amina didn’t do anything to the woman. Sure, she never intended to cure her, but she never meant to harm her either — how is she already dead?

“What did you do to her?!”

. . .

The guy — her “client” — screeches frantically, embarrassingly. She would have laughed if she didn’t realize how deep of shit she was in. Luckily, he doesn’t notice her hyperventilating through her ridiculous mask. 

“What did you do.”

This time his tone is low. Something crawls up Amina’s spine.

He whips his head around to face her and she feels the tables turning. His eyes have darkened and his eyebrows have scrunched in pure hatred. No longer does he look like the pathetic, skittish boy that she found at the front door. No longer does he appear gullible to her tricks — and that’s a dangerous thing.

Finally, Amina begins to feel dangerous herself. 

. . . 

The Ten of Cups

“I’ve given her peace.”

Robert stares hard at the expressionless mask. He hates it so much, with all its lies about the plague and helping his mother. For the first time, Robert begins to wonder about the ugly creature that lies beneath the mask. 


So he lunges — 

— and then he’s lunged at, and then they’re both tumbling through the sharp glass and out into the open world where the clouds begin to clear —

— and onto the damp ground, they make wet with their blood.


. . .