Yes, Mourning is Dark. It’s Real.

It was mentioned to me by a few people that my poem yesterday, Final Mourning, was darker than expected. I laughed, actually out loud, at that. It’s no darker than much of my other work. I think the disturbing element being sensed is that it’s real and not about me.

It is about an experience I had years ago when I lived in Montreal. Always curious to meet new people, I used to hang out with a few prostitutes near a bus stop. I’d ask them questions, trying to get insight into who they were. Even then, I was people collecting.

One five minute conversation sticks out in my mind. It was an older girl, and she had a swollen mouth and eye. Her lip was split. I asked her if she had been in a fight. She shrugged, looked away and said her man had gotten mad. No big deal, she said.

“I hope he looks worse than you do,” I said. She looked back at me, in the eyes, and smiled painfully. Her cheek spasomed as her cracked lip tried to stretch.

“He cut his knuckles real good on my face.” She nodded with satisfaction, and then the smile was gone. It fled like she should have. I never saw her again.

I knew what it was like to be hit in the face like that, but I’d gotten free of it. Young and resilient, I shook it off and moved on. She was trapped. She was probably 30, old to me at the time, but her whole life felt over. Final Mourning is my way of remembering her.

I’ve been censoring my words, keeping them reined in for the sake of polite conversation, but the new environment is opening me up more. I don’t feel like I have to pretend here. The weird thing is, I didn’t realize I felt censored until I left. So, probably expect some different work coming out of me. The world really isn’t polite.

In Favor of Pain was me dipping my toes, tentatively, back into poetry. It was my literary coming out of the closet. Escape Claws was me dealing with my past. The new collection I’m working on, for release in 2018, is Altars and Oubliettes. It is about what I’ve seen, like the nameless woman in Final Mourning.

I’m bored with searching my own soul. We all have monsters hiding inside of us. That’s old news. I want to explore new horizons.  Altars and Oubliettes is my memorial to the people I’ve met and couldn’t help. It’s for the words I didn’t have at the time as I just watched disaster spin out in other lives. I didn’t know what to do. Now, this is all I can do.

But, so as not to seem all gloomy and dour as I turn into a nocturnal hermit in the Midwest, here is something more palatable. Another pantuom, another digital collage, this seems to be a potent combination for me at the moment. Called Nothing Less, and in a way it’s what I wish I had said to the woman in Final Mourning, and so many others.

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith's work has been published in several print and online publications, including the “Horror Writers Association's Poetry Showcase” vols. 2-4, “Christmas Lites” vols. 1-6 and the “Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy” anthology. She has nearly 20 books of speculative fiction and poetry for adults, YAs and children. Her first collection of poetry, “In Favor of Pain,” was nominated for an 2017 Elgin Award.
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