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Breath & Shadow

Summer 2017 - Vol. 14, Issue 3

"Letter to My Child"

written by

AJ Rio-Glick

when hearing people write lies on your skin in front of your eyes, listen, but don't look.


they will think you're not there, disappeared into your head again, but make yourself listen, and make yourself speak back. speak truths.

when they call you inspirational, listen. you are, but not in the way that they mean. figure it out for yourself, and then trace the patterns that run away from your ears and all the way down your throat, down your chest, down your stomach, trace them alone, by yourself, and realize you are inspirational, but not in the way that they mean.


when they tell you that things aren't how they are, listen. they are trying to help you. they don't know that people like us dig for honesty the way gold miners did for gold in 1860: the search is crazed and the gold is rare. they don't know that you've spent all of your years with your ears stretching, with your lips coaxing, hoping that maybe someone will walk into your life and repeat the world to you line by line, word by word. other kids will dream of princes and princesses and you will dream of clarity. be your own clarity.

someone will come into your life and think that love means showing you the world through their voice. when they tell you that you are crazy, walk away. it won't matter any more that they are trying to help you - the maps that they draw while you are sleeping will be laced with their own pain, and the stories they tell you will be contorted. you're not the only person who gets lost in their head. make your own maps when you wake up.


when they tell you it is your fault, listen. remember that no one else knows your ears like you do: no one else heard that van gogh cut off his ear and identified with him so strongly, but you did. they will tell you that some things are more important to listen to than others, that you don't get to decide. but more often than not, they want your energy spent on them and no one else. remember that you get to decide. you do.


remember that your voice will come and go. they will rely on their voices in a way that you never will: their voices will give them an out and your voice will keep you locked in. and when you do speak, they won't listen to you the way they listen to each other, partly because your voice may only ever teach you that it doesn't want to be listened to, and partly because you speak too softly.


when you finally open your lips, listen. there is no sound like yours, baby.

AJ Rio-Glick is in their final year at Bard College at Simon's Rock in Massachusetts where they study social action/social change and creative writing. They are currently working on a senior thesis on female masculinity in the queer community. They like to draw, discuss social issues, and write (and write and write). You can reach them at

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