Blanket Sea

Magazine & Press

Poetry by Moni Brar

Listen to “The Swell” and “21 Things My Illness is Not,” read by The Blanket Sea Team.


The Swell

my thoughts
+++gather and swell
as days slink, snake
+++one into the other

they bulge, take shape
+++like balloon animals
a quivering panda
+++a righteous lion

they dance
+++in a circus ring
in the middle
+++of my living room

chase each other in circles
+++with abandon
gain speed
+++eventually land

at my feet
while the treetops
+++framed by a window

drag my eyes upwards
+++to watch a smudged sunset,
a blue moon
+++my hands run

through a blanket
+++of memories
pluck the forgotten,
+++clutch the ripest

my body remembers
+++bare toes of childhood
sinking into the comfort of clover,
+++a face open to anything


21 Things My Illness is Not

a phase
+++a choice
++++++an inconvenience
a ruse
+++a hoax
++++++an expense
a curse
+++an excuse
a blip
+++bad luck
++++++a defense
a stunt
+++an option
++++++an embarrassment
a shame
+++a pity
++++++a liability
++++++just a figment of my imagination



Born in northern India, Moni Brar now lives on unsurrendered territories of the Treaty 7 region and Syilx Okanagan Nation. Her writing explores the interrelation of time, place and identity in the immigrant experience, diasporan guilt, intergenerational trauma, and colonization. She believes art contains the possibility of healing. Her work appears in PRISM, Passages NorthHobart, Vallum, Existere, and others.

Creative Nonfiction by MT Vallarta

Listen to MT Vallarta read “And I said—” and “A Refrain.”


And I said—

You asked me to marry you on a gurney. I​s this the real life or is this ​a My Chemical Romance song. For three hours, I sat in the waiting room next to your mother. I counted the M&M’s and peanuts in my bag of trail mix and read the same verse by Louise Glück over and over until it became paper nailed to my skull. ​Luckily, you’re dead; otherwise you will learn that love and trauma make strange bedfellows. You can love someone enough to pull them back by the scruff of their neck, but forget you’re still the one who pushed them. I guess that’s why I put my arms in my face and let a tiny blade sever the nerves in my left middle finger.

“a fortunate life”: it means/to exist in the present. I​ was just fortunate to still have a part of you to hold. Never mind if that part became lost in glasses of whiskey and pipes full of wax. Or that I cradled it alone in a closet one night, waiting for the hurricane inside you to calm. It’s funny how safe the dark can become.

I wish someone loved me just as strong. I​ worry it is not my strength, but my desperation. How many people can say they found love after reading each other’s suicide notes, or by throwing lit cigarettes into a swimming pool just to see the smoke curve then falter. I loved you not because it was the right thing to do, but because every beat, blood, and bone in my body quivered with a want. ​I want your brain to take you somewhere safe. T​o turn into the sunflower I call you. ​I want your scars to turn into a map. A​ path to that place where your petals can dance.

I want us to move past the hurting, perhaps into a holding and carrying.

I will hold your hands. I​ will carry you. I will carry all I can.


A Refrain

At some point, we all need to ask ourselves ​how many chances am I worth giving. Has it been, like what, six different therapists now? W​hen do you know it’s time t​o start darkening your line with permanent marker, to wring the fear out of yourself like water from a towel.

I tell myself it’s okay to challenge you. I tell myself t​hat lying is just another part of imagining. ​How do you do that? How do you get your brain to work s​o you don’t feel sad? Don’t shrug. That’s not fair to the rest of us.

It’s like telling your stomach not to rumble when it’s hungry. Like telling your skin not to bleed after cutting it.

“It’s been six and counting.”


How many times have I woken you up like this, with night terrors collecting knots in your hair. ​Will you shower today? ​The evening passes with a dead skin smell.

You would be better off​ i​f​ I never wished I was alive until I felt my fingertips tingle from tracing your lines. D​id you know ​that sweaty palms run in my bloodline. My mother once soaked my sister’s hands in ice water, hoping the temperature would freeze her glands. Instead, the water migrated to her feet, dribbling into a puddle.

The tale of a place is the tale of its water. T​he night I left the hospital, you left a single drop of water on your paperwork. A tiny gray splotch. The contour of a tear.


What is a pattern but a chorus. A repetition of a verse. What is self-harm but a mechanism, a new cog in the body’s pain receptors.



MT Vallarta is a poet and Ph.D. candidate in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Riverside, and forthcoming Guarini Dean’s Pre- to Postdoctoral Fellow in Asian American Studies at Dartmouth College. They have received awards and fellowships from Kundiman, the Chair in Transgender Studies at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc. Their scholarship and poetry can be found in The Velvet Light Trap, VICE, The Bind, Breadcrumbs, Nat. Brut, Apogee Journal, and others.

Poetry by Rise

Listen to Rise read “Xylem and Phloem Pray Every Summer” and “ISeenItSomewhereBefore.”


Xylem and Phloem Pray Every Summer

My body is not an apology
Sorry be an empty lot
My bloom devours its echo
Sorry, eager buzz
I, Venus flytrap
Sorry, frozen mud an water mixture
I, dandelion breeze
But I am still sick
Brimmed of wound, muscle, wanting
Rest and flesh and
Love, an anxious bud
I’ve allowed nails to press into this sacred
Left til they were done
Came back sometime the next morning
Dressed, rinsed, did not look in the mirror
A ritual
A Black girl right of passage
Do not look in the mirror
Do not find yourself
Do not know your scars intimately
Body be spoon;
Hold, curve, bend,
Do not be weapon

We’ve not been a team
There for me

Me, hating her
In all ways
Me devouring
Me pushing
Me choosing and choosing and choosing
The wrong things
In all ways
I starve them when I hurt
Istuff them when I hurt
And body,
Every day
Vessel of pirouetting trauma
Building of ricocheting bricks
Waits, for me still
Body wants to know if I have their back this time
Their chest
Their tears
Their hands to warm
Body will not apology itself grave again
Body resurrect
Body lay under a blanket an shake
Body wheeze up stairs
Body laugh from belly
Body sweat rivers between mounds
Body float back to back
Body, give me another chance
Crave and I’ll listen
Race and I’ll listen
Still yourself tree
Tell me when to move my love
Tell me when to leave
I’ll adventure myself seed, follow you wherever you go



The revolution will also be from the couch
It will be under weeks old bed sheets
Lingering smells of fire cider and lysol
Some days the only change will be underwear and the sun and that will be enough
It will be nonlinear and neurodivergent
It will be light an heat an touch sensitive
It will also be full of light an heat an dark and touch an aches an screaming pain an laughter
And falling and not having to get up
And falling an being asked first before being helped up
The future will have laughter in every pocket
The future will have real pockets!
The future will not rename people who have already named themselves
The future sometimes will shut down when overwhelmed and not speak
The future sometimes will shut down when overwhelmed and scream
The future will embrace all its shapes
The future will not smile just to be polite
The future will be captioned, will be signed, will be interpreted
The future will not claim interdependence and then shame people for not knowing what their needs are
The future will be trauma informed and harm reductionist an it will be that as a collective an interpersonally
The future will not just admit when they’re wrong
The future will revel in it and bless the stars for the chance to learn more
The future will learn in order to teach in order to learn in order to teach in order to learn some more
The future has cute companion pups
The future has free canes & crutches & insulin & albuterol & ventilators
The future will fidget and clap and repeat until acknowledged
The future will fidget and clap and repeat until acknowledged
I said
The future will fidget and clap and repeat until acknowledged
The future will be still
The future will be patient
The future will not allow urgency to harm its people

The future closes their eyes and rests and justifies nothing
The future has the answers because the present has the people
Disabled people and chronically ill people have been murdered by their peers an the state through COVID an we will remember

Our ancestors will remember an they will carry us when all else refuse an sometimes they will lay down with us an rest & breathe &
entangle fingers an wrists an wires an we will know the surge of companionship deeper than any human touch

Isolation could never


This poem first appeared in Understory Quarterly.



Rise (they/them) is a Black genderfluid disabled femmeboi from St. Louis living on Potawatomi territory (Chicago). Everything is always changing and that’s what they love about themselves, their writing journey, and words in general. Currently, they write from the lens of creating home, embracing rage, simmering love and being deeply committed to their imagination. Imagination as home. Imagination as safety and protection. Imagine to escape for a minute, to cope. Imagination to believe that the world hella Black and Brown folks have been pushing for is already here, tiny fragments lined in gold, growing a foundation conducive to thriving. Imagination as realism/magical realism. Imagination to directly say what needs to be said when the actual story is to hard to tell.  When they are not writing, they are hanging out with their ESA pup, Jelly Ferocious, and being a Reproductive Care Worker.

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