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Kayla Heisler


Kayla Heisler is an essayist + poet based in New York. Her work lives at Two Cities Review, Femsplain, Witch Craft Magazine, Eleven and a Half, and A Public Seminar. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. You can follow her @kcheisler_ and read more from her at

Self Care

It’s the desire to scream
felt within every limb
the need to flee
run jump hide escape
leave and never come back
to sprint like the Messiah
is opening up the cap of the
world to cut a trail
to hightail to pound
feet on earth feet on
earth feet on earth
until there is no
there only here and
here is where you
never conceived you
could possibly be but
you are so you rest your
worn out muscles and
you ease your ramshackle
bones and you sit down
in the sunlight in the breeze
you stretch your body out long
take up all the space you need
close your eyes expand your lungs and



Here there are no fair water nymphs
or chesty, naked mermaids
laughing in the break of ocean waves.

There are no seafoam apologies
bubbling up like post-seizure spittle
clinging to the sides of raw mouth corners
disappearing in the tide—
all ghost words. Spirit sounds.

When the stitches begin to
itch, you know you are healing.

The lady beside me on this train
smells of death. She is ninety
or one-hundred or seventy-five
like my grandmother once was
and the air beside her is rain,
flooded bog soil, forgotten produce.
The cloth abandoned at
the bottom of the wash
long ago.

But maybe she’s not dying
maybe she’s just healing.
Maybe she’s just a little bit
tired after splashing in a
wake of water all night
giggling topless twirling in
the mist for so long
her hair changed white.

Maybe she’s ingested
one too many acrid apologies and
it’s burning her up
thus those wrinkles
thus the smell.

I look down at my hands.
These veins were not always so

Because the ocean is just
an offering
a slow accumulation of residue
resurrected from make believe I’m sorry‘s
haphazardly scattered
and the sand’s only there for
us to drag ourselves against
in penance.

I trace the faint hunter green on the
top of my hand from beside my
middle knuckle to the top of my wrist. It
branches, then fades.

I breathe in.

What do I smell like?

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