Marissa Johson-Valenzuela 2015 Lambda Literary Fellow

Marissa Johson-Valenzuela 2015 Lambda Literary Fellow



thank yous first off my friend to read whose birthday it is in Philadelphia can't be at her birthday party I'm here amongst my chosen family um but I have to thank her because she was like apply okay I think apply I did and I I really do owe it to her and I owe it to all of you I want to thank all of you i am honored to be a part of this and to be here with all of you in to hear your work so this is from a novel that i'm working on to live this life requires resistance and an obsession with possibility the way a first love can ruin you because because it is hard to feel so lost and yet found again and when you do end it again is beyond reason or ability you may just be broke may find yourself repeating some days even waking up repeating other times repeating in the most unlikely of moments as I do I love you I love you I love you no longer directed at a person at all of them at possibility no longer given to be owned now at a past now at potentials to fend off fear and resignation now the words overused cliché printed on every possible thing take on new meaning I love you I love you I love you I believe we can create a monster I believe we already have Detroit 1998 the things a person does not know until they live them she wasn't born here but born of the of complications that reared at the city it made sense rolling downtown feeling one with the bicycle pedaling hard then holding on and enjoying the free will the weight of the bulky steel creaking beneath her navigating potholes and felt like cracks and the pavement avoiding broken glass and random scraps of metal aware of what a flat tire can do can see the stars in the city so dimly Lin the neighborhood she exits is already asleep as she turns into the main thoroughfare thoroughfare there are only a few old Fords dodges Chrysler's on the road some buildings have open signs that have been lying for 20 years all that will be open at this hour are the corner stores called party stores there are bulletproof clear plastic counter enclosures they're dependable stock of neighborhood basics white bread bags of chips in $2 or 25 cents eyes up front further away the Shelf of cup of noodles for until the check comes Fago and forties to the far side a small section of outdated magazines closest to the door she rides past these party stores they're glowing exterior lights and linking men with heightened senses weary during part of her ride she can look right south of the city and see Canada across the water Windsor grows right and even from here it seems to taunt it's clean and shiny its tax base projected into the night sky and in the reflection it casts on the gentle ripple of the Detroit River to her left a lot with a battered gray couch and gamespot a city no one envied her for living in a city no one vacation to a city so many people did not think mattered maybe it was one of the black mayors the suburbs still blamed maybe it was the unions of the riots or an increased need to self-medicate matched by increased supplies some preachers continued to blame a moral deficiency countless excuses and justifications for why the city have lost over half its population she called ahead to see what the boys were doing and though it didn't sound like much it still sounded better she was tired of pretending like Val and Emma aren't fighting all the time of hiding in her room listening to records so she doesn't accidentally Easter up and it meant she got to ride the bicycle her need for goals and purpose and tangible results make it hard to ride simply for the sake of writing and so when she pedal brakes at their building she keeps her hands on the handlebars a bit longer in the small park across the street the lighting is eerie half-caste she looks up to check the streetlights street lamps but they are all on are they only getting half power are the casings that dirty did somebody order the wrong light bulbs she turns away pushes the buzzer for their floor and waits for the click of the rock block release city is a glass of water half abandoned or half full hmm the abundance of space provides room to maneuver to look at failed foundations at false fronts at stripped down rusted framing on good days when the plumbing works when there is enough food when it isn't too cold and there are some semblance of safety there is something about being free from all that excess about having to look at your neighbor even if the only one is a block away about your own resilience maybe if people reclaimed it call themselves the winners because of being called losers because maybe with what's been defined as winning nobody should want to win [Applause] [Applause]

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