Behind the Poems: ex

Originally published in the Avatar Review, Issue 21, this next installment of Behind the Poems is an ode to writer’s block.

Cross it all off and don’t look back. Like a long
languid breath, to draw that X over words that no longer
work because you no longer work the same way.

X marks the spot, so tape it to the wall and let the arrow fly.
Let them go. Let them fade into smeared ink and crinkled
yellow pages. You’re not bound to old texts if they are no longer bound
to you. Cross them out with a big black X stretched from corner to

corner. Start a new page—hell, a new book—and leave that X in the old spiral
notebook with the Happy Bunny cover to collect dust as all the others before.
It’s well-worn and you’re ready to move on. Let this set of college rule lines
be a new love affair to be filled with today’s thoughts and tomorrow’s voice.

One day, after months of working on a story that I could not get to work, I finally decided to call it. Out of frustration, I took my pen and drew a big X across the page, scratching at it over and over again until the pen nearly tore through the page.

I sat at my desk, letting my fingers run over the pages of the used-up notebook. Feeling the lumps of raised letters and indentations on paper soothed my annoyance at having to give up on a story. I flipped the pages and listened to the crinkle, ASMR before I knew about ASMR.

As I took in the details of the notebook and my failed tale, this poem began to form. I started with the image of the big X on the page and moved into the wordplay of an ex.

To me, leaving a work unfinished felt like giving up which felt like failure. But I started to look at it from the lens of a breakup and realized sometimes giving up is really letting go.

I also wanted to bring forth the imagery of the Happy Bunny notebook. I had bought it from Hot Topic in my middle school days. At the time, I was writing a story as a college undergrad. Noting that I was moving on from that childish notebook felt like making a choice to move away from that narrative, the kid that I was.

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