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Rooted Collective

Poetry by Maya Blackwell
Art by Deia Joy Burdis



I imagine you over breakfast
No longer pressing on my aching chest

or resting in this sacred nest.
Instead, you are yawning the dawn in

fingertips sprawling like claws
that cracked the egg you were formed in

A tired-eyed birdling
melting into yolky sun
a fragile reminder
of all that you could not become

And it's boiled eggs for breakfast

I sit here, wonder if you’d twitter

with the birds' morning chorus

A hatchling pried from dreams of flying,

awaking to the cries of your allies'

sighing lullabies-
singing you alive

Would your eyes rise
and fumble for a height to climb
a far away place to chase
Would you perch beside me, wide awake

watching the starlings pirouette
in morning's embrace-
the spritely breath of wings
greeting the dawn's wind

I imagine your sparrows feet

delicately ornating the space
around your early eyes
maybe mine would be crows by then

I wonder if the sight of you
would make me feel young again
living vicariously through untainted eyes

So scarily close to blemish,
so unashamedly alive

I imagine you in the emerging chorus of spring

Flying home from school with a boundless grin

visions of you chortling and chirruping
seeing mythical wonderlands

spurring from the steam in my afternoon teacup

and maybe you’d get lost there for a moment

tell me a story of pirates pillaging a misty island

where ghosts were coils of smoke

and whirlpools of English Breakfast

swallowed up a minuscule ship

riding on a teaspoon-

Maybe I’d laugh,
maybe I’d dismiss you
in the way all busy grown-ups do.

I’m still not sure whether love is a choice

and I’m sure if I caught a glimpse of you

perfect, featherweight, barely solid
as delicate and warm as the milk
you’d learn to suckle from me
sweetened from the nectar of a honey womb

the seed of a budding bloom

I’m sure I’d have no say in loving you

Letting go has taught me an unforgiving truth:

Sometimes choosing to love yourself

means sacrificing the love of someone else

and sometimes its sacrificing life for life

clipping the wings of the hatching
so mama bird can take flight

I imagine you in the evening light

flying with the Nightingales

silhouetting our Mother Moon
She reminds me of a quiet yearning

to fall in love with you

Howling with the night-owls
I sigh home another beautiful evening

return you to my breast
my heart flutters, beating
with the same rhythm that rattles

your chest as you breathe in

these moments are only fleeting.

so, I watch you sleeping

cradled in the quiet place

only I can reach
a space I keep caged

so I can be set free.

On nights like these
I wish I’d known the rhythm

of your beating heart
wish I’d understood my own

enough to let yours start
but allowing you to flourish

would mean me falling apart

so let these constellations be reminders of your un-lit spark living in the limbo of a stolen star

let this night sky be an ode to the starling that never glowed.

Just know-

I cherish the empty space where you once lay

I cherish the empty space
where your life was swept away

I cherish this empty space
but I wasn’t ready to let you stay.

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Moon children


Your restless hands

strummed me silent

lips quivering

infinity formed

from our circled mouths

pulsating together

with silent breathes

that quicken, reach out


like hushed footsteps

on your landing

as we tip-toe in

from hours roaming 

under star-light

the only moon children 

in your home

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Storm child


He is a steady and stoic storm

with eyes like clouds burrowing in oceans

born from tides that break

from failing to hold themselves open

And I know it isn't my job

to hold those hurricanes

that erupt in his chest

when he cannot he is afraid

and it isn't my job

to interpret clenched fists

as closed off doorways

knuckles nulling a storm break

It isn't my job

to do anything in fact

there are no obligations 

in the way of the heart

But I will hold him in these moments

with the tenderness I have been taught

I learned to slip,

familiarise with the rip tide

that grips at my insides

I was taught to embrace breaking waves

I know now how to hold myself in place

and I have learned in my own way

that when I asked him to keep me safe

I was trying to say 'stay'

even when I inevitably break

But that was too much to ask of a boy

that has storms swirling in his spirit

He is not a rock

he is not my safe space

he's as fleeting as a raindrop

as fickle as a wave-break

The crashing waves call him

in some ways he craves the chaos

for the oblivion of giving in

and the will within to say



your love is not for me to hold

I am not ready,

not rock steady

the weight of your heart is

too heavy

I am not ready."


So I didn't wait for the storm to pass

the rain graced my face

and I decided to dance

His hands held holy on my heavy heart

I let go slowly,

watched his palms part-


and mould in to a clenched fist

poised on the precipice

of rock hard sediment


his temperament like a cliff face-

shaped only at the edge of itself


waiting to fall with the ocean beneath


so he could finally know

what it means to be free-


I watched the storm take form

when he let go of me.

but something in me knew

thats how its supposed to be 

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Wild Paint


He is wild paint
the colour of Spring
buttercup pressed to chin
in the early Summer
he is singing

the sparrow flocks to his side
as he strums the dawn alive

howling goodbye
to the foxes that stalk
in the dwindling silver of night

he is safe here
Safe in knowing
his soft offerings
to the Mother Of All Things
are just tiny imprints

quiet and timeless
moments of being
and to him,
there never was a truth
quite so freeing

he is wild paint
the colour of Spring
buttercup pressed to chin

in the early Summer

remember to listen

you might just hear him singing

My own work is self-labelled as documentary photography, out of a lack of a better title. By carrying a camera daily, I aim to embody the spirit of the Brownie in making the means to photography ready to me at every moment, without obstruction – by doing so, I can take a photograph of anything that captures my eye and interests me enough to preserve. Any of us can do this these days, with a camera readily available in our pockets around the clock – and many of us do so without even thinking about it. Next time you take your phone out to take a photograph, whether it is of your friends or of something that caught your eye, think about how you are participating in the act of documenting your life through photography. Make prints of your favourites, display them on your walls, share them with your friends and family. Follow the tradition of those who came before you and took their own snapshots documenting their lives. Everyone is a documentary photographer today, and this is a good thing.

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