BLOOD By Roya Backlund


High school boy
passes me anonymous love note online:

You would be pretty if your nose
wasn’t so damn big.

It’s all he sees when he looks at me; its so big,
taking his attention away from my eyes, which
pretend not to see him, my lips
that search for words which do not come.
Not my boobs though, no. They’re good
when they’re this big,

like “girl” means
I am all additions and subtractions; a division
between myself.


I figure out just how to angle my head
so that cameras capture the girl half-shadow,
other-half struggling to bear the burden
of the rest of me.

I grow my hair out until I am a willow tree
hiding so far within myself that nobody can hear
the weeping,

rub bark into my skin until I can’t feel a thing,
crack myself at all corners, drink the word “pretty”
until maybe it glows from inside me,

“ugly” pecking away at the soft spots,
wanting to get in.

Sticks and stones extending from me like branches,
words strewn all around me like leaves
torn by the wind.


I am 18-year-old girl
asking doctors to carve her out of marble
and no one remembers the dreams they have
while under anesthesia

and I wake
vomiting blood into a nurse’s hands,
giving her what is supposed to stay sealed
but wanting to be rid of, what needed trimming
from myself
so that I could fit

but my nose is still crooked,
still fun house mirror looking back at me, my body
backstabbing my spirit,

and I am a jagged peg
in an even more jagged hole.

Smaller nose
survived a butchering
and girl thinks this is a few inches closer to the light
but soon, my sight adjusts for the difference
and the shadows
find new corners
for me to hide.


Girl keeps scratching herself apart,
until maybe one day, she finds the pearl
enclosed at the bottom.

No pearl feels beautiful
when it is bleeding.

She stands fully exposed
on stage, at the center of it all,
spotlight loving all
of her summation

(the darkness cannot eclipse her

tells the audience to let it be known
that she won’t be shrinking away from herself
anytime soon, as if to say:

This is the face I am stuck with
and all I can do is love it shamelessly
for being the only face this kind of beautiful,
and without hesitating
to push terror into the hearts
of those who can’t handle it;

can’t handle loving the self so easily,
can’t handle beauty belonging completely to me,
can’t handle that someone was able to find it
in a world that raised us to believe
we don’t deserve it.

By Roya Backlund


Roya Backlund is a recent graduate of University of California, Irvine with a B.A. in English literature as well as a Los Angeles-based film actress. She has been published at Thistle Magazine, Words Dance Publishing, and will be releasing her first collection of poetry this summer. She is a co-founder of Kings Zine, a literary and artistic collective. More of her writing can be found at

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