We can build cathedrals, we can build palaces
for kings and temples for gods, mighty buildings
cutting the heavens, invading that sacred cloud
space like we do with aeroplanes and shuttles
and probes. We can look around and say, wow,
we did a good job. It’s big. It’s impressive. It’ll
last a long time. It makes us all look clever and
talented. Then we look up at the stars on a clear
night in a black sky, cold and wise. We think,
that couldn’t quit blooming
the orchestrated ambiance
of closing remarks
in the dark hours of the year
I was your right arm
held in socket by spaghetti
broken in the anguish
of a season you didn’t have to feel
it was just
it was always becoming
He left behind a half pack
of Reds in my glove compartment
from the night before.
I’m 20 years old on
a lunch break.
In film class,
we’re at the scene
in Blue Velvet
when Jeffrey and I are sneaking
into a lounge singer’s apartment,
and now I’m worried that Frank
is going to smell the tobacco
on my hands.
He’s 22 years old and we’re
in his room watching the beginning
of Phantom of the Opera
for the third time.
He’s running his fingers
down my bare back
and it feels like water
that could be holy water,
but we lack the energy
I’m on the third full glass of wine.
The chandelier falls,
the mask comes off,
the sun greets that sweet spot
of the windowpane,
and I’m not surprised when we miss
I’m six years old,
pouring out the pack
of Pabst Blue Ribbon down
the kitchen sink.
On the counter, there’s
a glass half empty
and I rinse it out clean.
The stone white moon,
always mocking from the window,
makes shadow crosses down my empty chest,
tells me it’s 3am.
Beside wooden table legs,
I am praying,
with knees pressed to
that maybe this will
*read i love you here's a gigantic worm here
alli simone defeo is my best friend. What's cool abt that sentence is how many people it is applicable to. I have known alli since we were very small freshmen at a tiny art school in New Hampshire. After a few weeks of knowing each other we ended up becoming roommates sort of by happenstance, and lived in the tiniest of dorm rooms which was soon full to the brim of all of our stuff, our sadness and our sentimentalities. We found ourselves through each other that year, like we were on some new level of connectedness, we led each other into our own queerness. Never have I found such easy intimacy with a friend, and to this day it is one of the strongest loves I have felt. We shared our most hurt parts with each other, have seen each other's trauma and loved each other more fiercely for it. Found transness in each other, opened up into ourselves, together. This sort of love and friendship that makes the world a bearable and sometimes beautiful place is what i love you here’s a gigantic worm unearths for us the reader. This book is the first full length collection that alli has had published,coming after a prolific list of chapbooks and other multidisciplinary endeavors. I love you here's a gigantic worm brings to mind the Jenny Holzer piece:
In a dream you saw a way to survive and you were full of joy
It’s as if i love you is this dream, bringing us linguistically through seasons, through light,
through gender, and through time.
The very first line brings us to the edge of a day ;
the sun surrenders itself in the hands of earth
And we enter the nighttime, a time of magic and transcendence, a time of ritual.
The poems in i love you both aesthetically and thematically bring to mind Sappho’s fragments, delving into love and pain, so often enmeshed within each other. Images of flowers and fruit are consistent within the collection, adding to the overall themes of the cyclical nature of pain as well as healing, the night turns to day, winter to spring, trauma to healing.
my mounted unit came just in time i
have been trying to fold myself over
my hurt, “thank you thank you” saying
to the rain touch the ground or touch
my body, i fuck myself like i fuck
other structures of earth to take into
my mouth with my feet the magnolias
begin to slow in their green wool caps
Throughout the collection, we are given small breaks from the heaviness of trauma and bodily existence in humorous little fragments
thank you 420
Or the lines
the magnolias joined the party
“give me hot wheels” i say to god in the night
These silly little messages mixed in, a joke you would text your best friend, are exalted to small prayers, only adding to the overall feeling of love exuding from this collection.
alli’s use of language is reminiscent in many ways of ee Cummings, from unusual word order and idiosyncratic syntax, to metaphorical imagery of the body and nature, often sensual and ecstatic. Lines that stick in your head, the ones that you hold onto forever, that float into your thoughts every now and then, when you need to be reminded of them. There's a sense of pushing at the boundaries, bringing a brand new kind of joy and silliness to the party (the party being poetry). an acrostic that spells out slip knot, a reference to a viral video?(the one where that kid falls off a skateboard and his friend very genuinely suggests they peeing on the offending damn ass gay ass rock) reptilian shapeshifting? What more could u ask for? It's an exploration into the particular complexities of finding oneself as a transmasc person, finding the boyhood within yourself, the inherent violence that comes with that and the challenges of finding softness in these spaces.
i love you here's a gigantic worm is just one of alli’s gifts to this world, but they give it so generously and with such care. It is a contemplation on how such softness can be found in a world full of pain, how we can search for this spring in our bodies and in our trauma, how to love when you have been given pain, how to love your hurt like a dear friend. Reading i love you here's a gigantic worm is like coming out of a dream; that one where for one precious moment, you feel your body in the sun, you're in your body and it is okay, like you've surpassed every boundary come out of your cocoon new, and you are okay and everything is okay, and for a while after you wake up you still feel warm.
tall limbs of time pressing
heat into my skin
im texting my dad to ask
have you seen the tiny moon?
in july's deep heat
came here i am too covered in it
every morning lifting beetles from
their backs outside the green gems
shake from the cloth, stirred into light
i want you to see this so i am crying
thinking you stretched out and golden
and i am releasing your whimpers into
the now sparkling air using my hands
angel !!!! of night
the small cool wings
against my face and body
we’re on Island Time out here, he said
white flax button-up loose and starting to stick in the thunder
the girls are standing around in their black shorts and Nikes,
blond braids and ponytails start to fizz
they have been working since 3
the outside seating is dripping and Tommy blows a 5-minute-break puff of smoke
before outing the cig in the plastic albatross by the door
the place looks cleared out,
but you can’t see the inside,
how long now?
supply truck rolls in,
gutted carcass rolls out
and the girls are still standing,
like they’re teaching the world what confidence means
young fresh faces like under-ripe fruit
softening drizzle now,
they can feel the slow dull fade a gentle end until
and the sound
of breaking glass
TO THE PEOPLE WHO CALL ME BRAVE
how do i explain
that there is no bravery in running
from a house on fire.
that this story begins with body
like animal skinning itself in reverse
& sewing itself up wrong.
that dressing like this feels less
like dressing up & more like dressing
after slipping boy from my body
i am a burn victim
trying to grow a second skin
& this is not bravery
it is survival
it is trading fire
for firing squad
& declaring my body
when you train the shotgun
of a mouth
on a body that you say cannot exist
i have already begun to fade
and your bullets pass through me
i sit in bed, the only place i sit like this
bra / stolen from the summer girl
wrapped tight as a belt
[the bible belt?]
around my chest,
wishing this cotton looked like flesh.
knowing it doesn’t.
i wonder if this is how my boyfriend’s binder
makes him feel / guilt begins /
to flow like blood.
i have grown accustomed to this / rusty lipped guilt /
thoughts that taste like every beating
i have ever avoided.
i want to take a razor to this traitor /
beard across my face
[dig past the hairs to my skin / paint it like my lips.]
every time i sing the word True
in tune with Laura’s pain
it feels like biting my tongue
i wish i could watch the blood / splatter into the sink.
a perfect bloody asterix.
[just invisible / enough.]
it’s not that i don’t want people to see,
but i remember how it feels / not to eat,
& guilt goes down easier / with wine.
i never intended to hide,
i would love to walk a mile in her shoes
but they don’t come in my size,
& i couldn’t / afford them anyway
[not in this economy.]
"I’m a Brooklyn based illustrator who currently freelances full-time from my home in the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. I received my BFA in Studio Art and Design in 2011 and have resided in New York City for the last 5 years. My work has been featured on Brit + Co, Brooklyn Magazine, Timeout New York, Design Crush, and Brightest Young Things, among others. My clients include Curbed, Urban Outfitters, Valley Cruise Press, and Country Living.
My work explores the interaction of physical and emotional spaces as well as the ephemeral aspect of each, primarily the notion of home. A person’s care and attention can infuse an existing physical place with an immeasurable but tangible energy. I’m interested in this transformation as well as the evolution of the relationship over time. The idea of “making space,” both by claiming a physical space as your own as well as creating a space for yourself from nothing, are central in my work.
My illustrations feature scenes from my own living space and neighborhood with themes of familiarity, comfort, and repetition. My images depict commonplace scenes and settings with the aim to celebrate the small contentments that constitute daily life as well as the fleeting and changing definition of the places we call home."
1. Let’s maybe start by learning a bit more about you. When and why are you smiling the most? How do you spend a night at home? Is there something in the world (tangible or not) that you hold especially dear?
I’m very much a creature of habit, so simple things bring me a lot of joy. Waking up with the sun shining, a breeze coming in the window, a pot of coffee, and a book in bed is a perfect morning for me. If I’m not working on a deadline, a typical night would be ordering food (I don’t like cooking! I’m just going to finally admit it!) and watching something on TV with my boyfriend and our two cats. The best is when both cats come to sit on the couch with us. I really enjoy being home and in my own space.
I’m rather minimal, so the things I do have around are all very important. I have two kachina dolls that come to mind. My parents got them in New Mexico at some point and I always remember them being present in our home over the years, even as we moved to different houses or places. Now I have them on our dresser and I love seeing them every day. I have a tattoo of one of them on my arm that I got in Santa Fe last year!
2. We discovered your work on Instagram through your Brooklyn Bodega Cats series. I actually jumped up and down with glee when I found it. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired it? Are the illustrated cats based on real ones? If so, are you constantly staking out bodegas for feline friends?
That’s so nice, I can only hope that everyone has that positive of a reaction! I started that project in 2014. All of the cats and stores are based entirely on real places, though some of the bodegas have closed or changed names since I illustrated them. It can be hard to keep up with how fast Brooklyn is growing and changing.
Many of the corner stores in New York City have resident cats who live at the store in exchange for keeping away bugs and vermin. It’s not uncommon to walk into a bodega and see a cat sauntering down the aisles or snoozing on a shelf. But when I first moved to Brooklyn in 2011, I was absolutely amazed to discover this unspoken fact of the city. I wanted a way to showcase and share the cats I met while also tying the project into my illustration work. The response has been very positive which makes it all the more fun. People are very passionate about their neighborhoods and thus, the stores and cats in them. It’s been a fun way to explore and connect with people. I’ve even turned two of the cats into enamel pins with Valley Cruise Press. Check those out here!
I am definitely always on the lookout for new kitties when I’m out and about. But I think it’s an unspoken rule of the universe that I shall never find a bodega cat when I’m actively looking. Whenever I go out with the intention of finding a new cat I usually come up empty. It’s the times when I pop into a store on my way somewhere or to use the ATM that I run into a new kitty. That’s what’s fun about it though - finding a new cat feels like an unexpected, exciting accomplishment!
3. What are your favourite things to illustrate? Is there anything particularly important to your creative process? Have there been any particularly defining moments in your development as an artist? In what ways does your personality come through in your work?
I of course love drawing cats! I also like illustrating buildings, either exterior or interior. It’s quite satisfying to create a sense of space out of nothing. I like that illustrating an interior can draw someone into a room that, while not real, feels as though it can be inhabited and experienced. I take a lot of inspiration from my own apartment and the homes I’ve lived. In this way, I can create something that feels familiar and comfortable but also unknowable - perhaps a place that exists in a parallel universe to our own.
I actually haven’t found anything that I particularly dislike drawing. I used to shy away from drawing people, bodies, hands, etc and I told myself I didn't want to After some assignments that included drawing these things, I found I rather liked it!
Anytime I’ve pushed myself to do something out of my comfort zone (such as the above) I’ve found that it’s a positive step forward and helps me to improve as an artist and creative person. The only way to get good at something is to do it over and over!
4. Your illustrations carry this curious sense of adventure, so I think I want to end the interview fairly open-ended by asking you to tell us about a personal adventure of your choice (of any scale).
I suppose most of my childhood could be considered an adventure! I grew up up in southern Colorado in a place called The San Luis Valley. The valley is about 100 miles across, surrounded on three sides by mountains and opening on the south to New Mexico. It’s a very beautiful area but also quite isolated and rural. I think it made for a very unique childhood in that I lived in the mountains and spent a lot of time outside, exploring on day trips or camping. My dad did a lot of hunting so I sometimes tagged along for that as well.
Many artists live in the valley and some believe there is a vortex in the area that draws people in and has a special energy force. It’s also a hotbed for UFO sightings and activity. This was the location of the infamous Snippy the Horse case in 1967. You can even visit the UFO Watchtower on the eastern edge of the valley, not far from The Great Sand Dunes National Monument. It’s a place like no other. Growing up in such an unusual and beautiful place was a great adventure and one I often miss as an adult living in the city.