“Drapetomania (or How I’m Healing Unwell)” & “Eulogy for River who Rises from Ashes” by Celina Nicole

Illustration of a body sitting and curled up, constellations in a black bubble behind them.

Drapetomania (or How I’m Healing Unwell)

freedom's not a sickness borne out of dreams
—deferred not by choice but in legacy
—their lashes cut flesh, a crude remedy
for ancestral heavens mapped in our genes

freedom's not an illness caged in desire
—we hunger each day for our daily bread
—we open in thirst for unpoisoned beds
flowing unto rivers to quench our fire

how do we recognize freedom after
—trauma, a blunt force modifying DNA
how do we trust in futures unafraid
—when mania makes our laughter louder

freedom’s a body you once held softly
—our bodies dancing unabashedly

Eulogy for River who Rises from Ashes

maybe your body escaped
maybe you were never asked
to drink flavored cyanide
not an easy death for 909 in seventy eight
maybe you were never taken on a trip to eternity
taste of applesauce and vodka lingers on your tongue
believer, you won’t breathe when riding comets
maybe you weren’t spiritually wed
to a false messiah that you would die for
maybe you had to cut all ties
with everything and everyone you knew
before, shed every part of that material you
maybe that’s an easy thing to do—
you don’t have to live in a cult to know
life after the love bomb is abuses & excuses
maybe your parents sought utopias
that introduced your demons,
you do not give them names
because that would give them power
over this story you’re rewriting
a child whose body was shared
abstained from sex for years to prove
he wasn’t a monster
no alcohol strong enough, no drug to take you
high enough to outrun them
be our teen idol
captivating enough to hide within a role
sharp jaws and eyes to cut through
the ache
we didn’t know but we could see that
you were a man who survived something
struggling still to survive it
we were hoping for a good end
not on a sidewalk outside the viper
not this end that will be told to more children
of god as a warning:
this is what happens when you leave

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Celina Nicole is a poet, storyteller, librarian, and maker of zines n’ things. Based out of Richmond, Virginia, Celina runs a zine library and co-organizes the Richmond Zine Fest. She spends her pandemic life taking too many pictures of her cat Howl and neglecting plants while writing and editing a forthcoming collection of poetry. Find her on Twitter at @celinanicole and Instagram at @celinanicolewrites.

Corinne Dodenhoff is a Philly-based artist, illustrator, graphic designer, Squarespace web designer, educator, musician, and plant parent. She’s passionate about helping small businesses, bands, brands and co-ops bring their mission and vision to life. She’s also passionate about beautiful aesthetics, design trends, social justice, and making design accessible to all. You can find her work online at www.designswithhe.art and also on Instagram at @corinnedodenhoffcreative.