Inkwell Edith by Alex Manebur

Ed has a stench that stings like cinnamon.
And still here I am in the November stull,
washing our laundry while they watch us.

We all sit in on the floor and thread letters through colorful string,
“Bitches” “Luv” “Toxic” one bead at I time. I made a few but
only kept the one that said “Howl”.

Our pants sag by the hips without drawstrings
like the playground rubber of popped balloons
and Ed’s got this baggy stained shirt from when she

got out of the hospital. Tried to kill herself
with a disembodied clock. True story. I’m sure there’s poetry
in that about killing time, but even this feels exploitative.

But I know she’d be happy I’m writing her.
She always wanted someone to. We’d make a
great TV show, she would say. Even they agreed.

They pick my brain and I think it’s funny how hard they try.
I unravel every day. We all do. Ed promises we’ll
be best friends forever. Even then the sick thing in my head scoffed.

I wonder what the sick thing in her head was saying.
I never write the way my head wants me to.
I used to think that made me better. Ed went AFK.

I smile at the starlight in the pure, dumb bliss. We call it
nuclear radiation. Bled out of my apocalyptic dreams last night.
Bending over backwards like high school crushes could save us.

I’m supposed to write between the lines.
She writes outside of them. I write on them neatly,
then all of them at once. I try to think of a prettier

way to fixate her in the resin of my page. It’s years later now.
Only a couple weeks ago did I finally take that bracelet off.
I keep trying to write it good enough. That’s not how pain works.

If it was, I’d be out of work after a single poem.
My incompetence keeps her with me.


Alex Manebur is a Korean-American poet based in both California and Iowa. She was a finalist for the LA Youth Poet Laureate in 2019. Currently, she reads for The BreakBread Literacy Project and has work published or forthcoming in Peach MagFlying Ketchup Press and Camas.

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, poetry, and creative nonfiction from marginalized creators.