Hey friends: welcome to the second issue of Distance Yearning, an online lit mag & interactive quaranzine. This week's editor's note is shorter and this week's issue is shorter, but it's packed with powerful work!
I've had a rough week: the quarantine depression really hit, and I know I'm not alone in that. I usually keep myself going by harnessing my inner fire to dive into project after project, but it's easy to get burnt out doing that. I'm so grateful this week for the folks who have told me that the artistic spaces I create mean something to them!
Give this issue a read, then check back tomorrow morning for next week’s theme; you can also follow us on Twitter or Instagram & we’ll be sharing art from this issue on social media over the next several days.
& now for this week’s theme:
“Aries season in quarantine. What happens to a fire sign starved of oxygen. The urge to create. The urge to procreate. Banging your head against a wall until it feels like you're banging your head against a wall. Feeling like a stitched together dead thing in a dungeon until lightning strikes and fills you up and then: It's alive!”
York Chen: "Calvaria"
In me lives not the Bard’s infinite chimps
but only a lonely, groaning monkey,
wrists shackled to keys—an old working Joe.
I scavenge artifacts, skeletons of
genius: somber columns of Capital,
exhumed; facets from X and Goldman; the
spines of Gramsci, Ba Jin, whose vertebrae
scaffold rich marrow below. My chimp learns
to ape; my soft muscles to raze and build,
seeking a clever bone in my body,
monkeying around in these bars. My skull,
reliquary without pilgrims, trembles
in the aftershocks of my father’s words:
“He isn’t bright, but at least he works hard.”
York Chen (he/him) is learning medicine and also how to do other good and meaningful things, because quarantine or not what we have to have is each other.
dh croasdill: “a list of hypothetical imperatives & supplementary facts describing a subtle incident at game night” + two photos
Imagine that it is being read. Imagine that she is in an embarrassment, not imagining herself so readily redly. Imagine that being red is a profound embarrassment, or it is a consequence of misreading her. Imagine that being that her face is all read, it is an embarrassment. Sheets of paper misread are an embarrassment. Stealing time is not simply what she does at work, imagine that it is in a dim room & it is beginning to sweat.
Imagine that one is becoming confused about the genesis of her sweat. Sweating indicates strain. Imagine that sweating is indicating that she is being under duress & is woefully well lit. Hurried describes duress. Heated describes duress. Horny describes duress. Imagine that one imagines that this is not how one imagines herself to be, & yet.
Imagine that there is a game where imagine that there is a game where stealing time is in a dim room but presently it is well lit. Imagine a game where stealing time is more than what one imagines she might do at work, where one imagines that she imagines not that she is beginning to sweat in a dim room but presently she is redly ready. Imagine that she is imagining that she is unable to continue, that more misreading could come to blows. Imagine that she might not mind either way, imagine that time is in somewhat short supply these days & one steals it where one can, all the better if there’s a fist, all the better if she can imagine, & if she can sweat, & if her
face already all red along the cheeks, & if she can sweat.
Imagine that she is in a profound sweat.
dh croasdill misses touch, not that she was any good at asking for it before all this. as the days slip by, her identification with her potted plants grows strong & neurotic.
Tyler King: “Mechanisms of Capture”
I rub my eyes
on the bus and I check my
belongings; wallet, phone, keys,
all the names I have been &
all the names I will collect,
down east 4th I see
a pig whistling with
blood under his tongue, he throws a look
like whatcha got to hide?
as if I don’t have a car crash
in each pocket, the garden here is ash,
the garden here was going to be
a pillar of gold reaching a
clawed hand up to the sky, but it isn’t,
it’s ash instead, must be
the season, must be circumstance,
oh what a gift, I think
while the man at the
interview is looking over
my documents; social security,
state issued identification, birth
certificate, yes I can lift forty pounds,
yes I can smile with my teeth, yes
I can disappear in the blink
of an eye, he presses his tongue
to the roof of his mouth and I think
surely, this must be when the blood
rushes out, the blood covers the earth,
I am drowned in the blood and the blood
becomes my mother, but it doesn’t,
he says thank you
for your time instead
I press my palms into the sidewalk, I don’t know what I’m hoping to feel,
I’m hoping, I guess, that you and I
deserve better than this, I’m hoping,
I guess, that we can be buried
with our jewels, our names,
we never asked to have our future sold
Tyler King is a poet and communist from southern Ohio. They are working on staving off The Fear by pouring over words and poems with the urgency and madness of a haunted archaeologist, and also by planting a nice garden in Animal Crossing.
Collin Knopp-Schwyn: “Here’s what we’ve learned over the past year:"
The cats got out last April 2 which made many people tremendously distraught.
On April 4, they began to show up again.
A cat will come to you when you need them to take a letter.
Sometimes, they will also come to you when you don’t.
If this happens, feed them what you can and if you cannot offer food, try and offer water or a gentle rub on the chin or belly (but be careful of the belly, because they are still cats and not all cats like all the same things!)
If they come with a letter that is for you, reward them handsomely and read the letter aloud to them, if you can.
They seem, universally, to enjoy this.
If they come with a letter for someone else, there is no harm in reading it so long as you tie it back and send them on their way.
The cats will not accept anything that cannot be easily unsealed and resealed.
Some people have chosen to write in codes although this seems to be more for their own peace of mind than anything else.
There have been no known cases of anyone receiving a letter to or from anyone they know or know of beforehand.
The cats need no addresses.
They only need our names.
We do not know how they know how to get to where they need to get but we know that invariably they get there.
The cats can perfectly disambiguate your intentions when addressing a letter to one of two recipients with identical names.
We don’t know how they do this either.
The cats will carry small parcels up to a pound if you reward them extra.
If the parcels contain something the cats might enjoy (tuna, catnip, beefsteak, creamed corn, etc.), they will not touch the goods in transit but failing to offer a bite upon receipt seems to slow subsequent service down to a noticeable degree for several weeks.
No one has ever seen the same cat twice.
Some have tags on them and some have microchips.
A cat arriving may be from anywhere in the world.
The Bering Strait still exists as do the oceans and the seas, but of course the boats no longer cross them so we cannot say how the cats get from here to there or there to here or, frankly, to and from Australia at all.
The cats will answer to any name.
The cats will not come when it is raining or in the heat of the afternoon.
The cats seem to know when people play chess across their messages.
The cats seem to like it.
As a point of control, the dogs have been of no particular help during this time.
What we can see out our windows does not make much sense of this situation nor do the few reports of those who’ve gone out and returned.
Up and down the road it’s just a steady trickle of cats who seem to have forgotten about, or maybe know that there’s no longer any danger of, the cars that once encroached upon their beats.
If you are cruel to them, they will never accept letters from you but will still come to your place if you don’t live alone and take letters from whomever else resides there and has been kind to them.
We don’t really know if those who have been bad to the cats are still around or not because we have no way of speaking with them.
I hope the cats stay around.
I plan to mourn this April 3, the anniversary of the day when all the cats were gone, and celebrate this April 4 in honor of their return.
It is hard to meet new people now and so I have written your name on this letter.
I do not know who you are or even if anyone goes by this name but if the cats do deliver this to you, find my name above and, if you like, please do write back.
Please let me what you’ve found out, if you know anything I have not listed here, or if you have conflicting evidence.
And if you ever see a pudgy black and orange cat with big round dipshit eyes and a vacant, almost bovine expression and a red collar that says “Krebs Cycle” (long story), please tell him that I miss him.
Collin Knopp-Schwyn (they/them) has written for the Journal of Bisexuality and Wikipedia.
Molly James: “3/24/20”
Molly studies the physics of the ocean, plays fetch with her cat Purr Isaac Newton, and suggests you check out the band BTS.
H.P. Medina: “let them find the storytellers”
I have already lost the battle with the blank page.
This is not what I meant to put down. There are a thousand ways of saying it better, brighter.
But they’re slipping through my fingers now the way that time isn’t, so I’ll try something new:
Have you ever thought about how this story will be told?
When we come out of this on the other side of history, who will write down what went on in the locked-up days? Will historians piece together narratives spiked through with other narratives, sift through internet threads and private chats, chase down the story until they have a shape of myth? Or will they leave it all shrouded for the niche, write large in the margins ‘here be monsters’, and box it up for enthusiasts to unpack later, when the dust has settled?
Like cave paintings or chicken-scratch carvings in soft stone, I hope they find the storytellers before they find the story: fragments of art-pieces made to raise money for medical supplies, stories littered with errors from where the text processor couldn’t translate it. I hope they find each line of poetry and song and video shot through with lens flare and fanfiction drowning in hope and groupchat dreams of sun-soaked days and ‘what you’ll do first when this is over’.
I hope they find the creators.
I hope they find the jokes and the humour and the memes the way we found it too, I hope they look for more than the fear and the isolation and the footnotes of a story that’s been told before (for wars and other pandemics and diseases swept under the rug until it was too late). There is something so minimalist about reducing history down to numbers, writing in broadstrokes that all there has ever been were this many victims, and that many heroes, and everything else, of course, is stage-dressing.
It is never, ever, that simple. There have always been stories.
To the ones that come after us, I say this: find the fire, and follow it to the spark. Know: this is how we helped each other because we could.
To the ones that are here now, I say this: set the spark, light the flames, and keep it burning through to better days. Let it be a guiding light, a linking light, a light to keep you going.
H.P. Medina is a copywriter and queer romance author dealing with quarantine by writing about happier days and taking too many pictures of her cats in silly positions.
Gina Pedano: a poem
what does it mean for an air sign to be trapped in quarantine? not used to the fire being built up in her home, day
after day (after day)
from a strange spark.
in a flushing of cheeks
a fire pit where my belly once was
the white-hot burn in my throat
nothing satiates it
it, which all boils down to a desperate yearning
and absolutely no way to put it out.
Gina Pedano is a grad-school dropout turned essential worker living in Syracuse, NY. She will be using her $1200 check to put down a deposit for yet another bachelors program, and a Nintendo switch.
Rachel Tanner: “Fall or Dance”
Please don’t mistake my affection for affliction.
There are monsters rooted inside my stomach &
I am doing everything I can to keep them from
climbing out of my chest towards you.
From reaching the commonalities & comforts
of wherever we choose to stand.
So maybe standing’s
the problem. Maybe the veins in our legs aren’t
constricting quickly enough to keep us
We can either fall or dance.
We keep going or we don’t.
Within all of my anger, burning into whirling weather,
tornado sirens & thunderous applause for pain
that I never meant to cause you, there’s a piece
of my heart that has your eyes, somewhere
in the very center of me.
I will sing you my sins, if that’s what it takes.
I will eat my mistakes, if that makes it better.
I take up too much room.
You have always known this.
My heavy will
weaken but will always
make itself at home
near your ribcage.
I am just an empty
slamming doors that
don’t belong to me.
If there is a science to this,
I never learned it. But what I do know
is that you can’t love winter without the cold.
You can’t love me without my cold.
I am learning mercy.
I am yearning for mercy.
Maybe things were already fragile.
Maybe I broke them.
But I am unafraid to build a temporary awning
as long as your hands help me hold it up.
When I untwist, I do my best to spool back up
into something recognizable. Something loveable.
The geography of me involves knowing your
boundaries & where they overlap with mine.
My hands can’t find you
when my eyes are closed.
My eyes can’t find you
when my hands are closed.
Please just stay.
Rachel Tanner hasn't sent in a bio yet, but will soon.