Awhile ago I became obsessed with neutron stars because I read a sentence in which one was compared to a mountain, as in if a neutron star could be boiled down into something one could swallow, the density would be that of swallowing a mountain. This notion, this phrase, swallowing mountains—nothing else seemed so poetic, so impossible, so stunning. I knew immediately it was the perfect metaphor—but for what? I kept trying to force the comparison, but nothing fit.
When I lost my cousin in September seven years ago, I grew obsessed with attaching my grief to this image of swallowing a mountain. Because of course grief is impossible. Of course grief is a mountain that does not fit in your throat. Of course it is almost funny how much it fucking hurts. And because I had seen shooting stars—one in the week leading up to her death and another from the floor of my father’s bedroom where I slept when I couldn’t sleep on the night after the news—that bookended her death in my journal. Stars were already on my mind and what I was swallowing wouldn’t fit and seemed as if it never would and I knew that this, this grief was my mountain.
As writers sometimes we are selfish. We take an experience and manipulate its meaning to fit our ideas. Or: we are constantly seeking clarity; we are creating metaphors and waiting to make sense of them, waiting for the images in our minds to come out in words. I wrote an essay about neutron stars and my cousin’s death because I was trying to process the loss of her, and this image I’d already grown attached to made sense. I tried to compartmentalize the loss of her into this box of something poetic, something that moved me, but all I did in writing this essay was think more about death. Soon after she died so did another cousin, and then an uncle, and then another uncle, and then another cousin. There were too many mountains to swallow and not enough words.
When I write sometimes I am driven by an internal expectation: to process, to clarify, to give voice to what the rest of the world, I know, would understand as something that hurts. I don’t think this is my best writing. My cousin died seven Septembers ago and I still do not believe I have written about that loss well; I do not believe I have written about it in a way that works. The kinder voice in my head reminds me that every word written in grief is part of the process of grieving and nothing has to be correct, or revelatory, it just has to be. The kinder voice in my head reminds me: your loss can be your loss it does not have to be art.
A book I return to often is Karen Green’s Bough Down, in which the narrator chronicles the aftermath of losing her husband to suicide. It is an art project but it is also a book on the experience of grief. I cannot open these pages without my breath catching—I feel the arc perhaps too much. The book moves unforgivingly through time: “September again and…I take your last blue pill, but dream about someone being put to death as punishment for putting themselves to death.” September again and. Every year this phrase floods my brain. It is September again and it is my sad season and I am still holding on to what hurts. It is September again and I am rereading the passages of widowhood, the passages of lost love, the passages of trying to pick up the pieces. It is September again and I am still counting the years, still counting, I am still counting the years as they come until I am older than she who was always older than me. It is September again and September again and she is still gone and I am still swallowing mountains that won’t go down.
I’d like to think this meditation on loss can be a reminder—keep writing through the experience even if sometimes the act of writing feels selfish or ugly. Keep working toward that metaphor, and if it works then you’ve done it and if it doesn’t then move on. Write more. It doesn’t all have to work.
This month marks the one-year anniversary of reembarking on the project of The Champagne Room in creative partnership with E.A. Midnight. What a year it’s been! I am so thankful to be creating this journal with her and to be creating a container with all of you. I am so thankful to share this space, and cannot wait to watch it grow. As this community grows, we appreciate your continued support—if you have not already, please consider purchasing a copy of Issue 02. We are very proud of the writers whose work appears inside, and want it to be read.
This month, we will begin accepting submissions for Issue 03 of The Champagne Room. Tell your friends! Tell your writing communities! Tell yourself and begin to deliberate over which piece of writing to send! Submissions will be open September 15th through January 15th. An updated version of our submission guidelines can be found here.
Our next contributor conversation is with Jesica Davis, whose poems “Lake House as Hourglass,” “Seeds,” and “Gun Control” appear in Issue 02. Her thoughts on cycles, spreadsheets, and reassembling the shards will be available to read on September 15th.
Thanks again for being here. I am endlessly delighted and humbled to share this space with all of you.
Love and Light,
Founder and Editor, The Champagne Room