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  • Writer's pictureTalia Diane N’Sele

Swamp Tears

Edited by Ava Emilione

Cover art by Raven Tucker, "Reap What You Sow"

how delightful must it be for you to put on your tears.

dangling earrings dancing before dripping into rivers of misery. one, two, three trickling down your cheeks on an almost perfect beat. a tragic and oh-so-romantic melody gracing everyone’s ears. a lullaby as they fall asleep and dream of a world where you’re only ever smiling.

how i wish they could see the same spectacle when it comes to me. all i have to my name is a greasy sink. endlessly screeching. one that they don’t care to fix yet can’t stand to hear. a worthy punishment for those of us with broken teeth.

i look into the broken clock that shows you and i drowning in laughter. one time. two times. through the dampness. into the drain. tomorrow i’ll wait again. the sight of strangers tethered together in fragile layers and the love of others. pearly off-whites out and everything. twins shining.

but unlike you, i never learned how to wash my sins in the sink.

dirt’s still clinging to my fingernails after rinsing my hands where i am not meant to wash them. one time. two times. through the dampness. into my skin.

any semblance of purity draining from me as i shed tears in a place that was meant for your eyes and ears only.

i should have known our audience of one couldn’t clap for me. after all, anyone born next to venus that day on the sea risked sinking without anyone noticing their body. isn’t it funny? how i used to think you were a reflection of me? perhaps the water distorted the image i thought i was seeing.

or maybe i was a fool for thinking that swamp waters could ever be holy.

Artist's Statement:

My name is Talia Diane (most call me Diane or sometimes Talia, never both) and I’m 22 years old. I have been living in the city for 4 years now but I grew up in Tunisia and Côte d’Ivoire. My parents are originally from Senegal (by way of Guinea and Mauritania) and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I never lived in those places and always felt a sense that I was never fully seen or never fully understood what it meant to truly have roots somewhere. Those experiences were enriching, but I only knew half or a quarter of a culture. During my teenage years, after moving away to Ivory Coast, I realized that growing up in Tunisia, where most of my peers were not Black, made it so that I felt like I could never fully connect with people on [the same] level they connected with others who they felt were just like them.

Throughout the years, living in Côte d’Ivoire and NYC, I realized that my past experiences were more universal than I thought they were and felt like I met people who could truly see me despite how different our lives were. I wrote this piece from a place of hurt. I was in conflict with someone, I felt like I was crazy and a person that is close to me cared more about the other person’s feelings than mine. The feeling that I was in competition to be seen and understood by others destroyed me from within and brought me back to my 12-year-old self momentarily.

Follow Talia Diane N’Sele (she/her) on Instagram at @diane_nsl

Follow Ava Emilione (they/them) on Instagram @ordinaryavaa

Follow Raven Tucker (she/they) on Instagram @the.shaleese

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