Freak of nature! You’re still alive?

I can’t seem to believe that I will hold on. 
Maybe my arms are just aching, 
Maybe I just don’t want to feel the branches slowly blister the skin of my palms, 
The free fall will be quick,
Painful, but quick. 

I let go, expecting the ground to reappear harshly, 
slap my back, 
snap by bones, 
twigs soon to be forgotten. 

I feel the flat earth catch my feet. 
Knees bent for impact. 
Had I hoped preparation will preserve me? 
Why have I hoped? 

I look up, 
standing on stable ground now.
Look up to see the branch that I held onto, 
only a foot away from my reach. 

Some time between losing my footing, catching the branch and hanging for dear life,
I grew. 
Just enough to close the distance. 

Ten foot giant, 
stretched by necessity, 
evolving to stay alive. 
How will I fit in to the old world? 
Too small for me now. 
It doesn’t matter.

"Freak of nature, 
you’re still alive!" 

All rights reserved © 2023 Josephine Joyil


Blooming under my ribs.
Pupa erupting,
From cocoons,
Unsure if they are fully formed,
Meeting the world, their world: 
The flesh under my ribs. 

Squirming, squirming,
Still trying to break free,
To find daylight,
They burrow through muscle and skin,
Some through bones 
And I let them, 
For it is no life 
Hidden beneath ribs. 

One of us should be free,
To fly to the clouds,
And float away. 

Be free, my winged children. 

All rights reserved © 2023 Josephine Joyil

Erupting Pupa

Little butterflies, 
flutter flutter,
under my little ribs. 
This is a disease.
Love bug or stomach bug, 
who knows the difference?
If there even is one. 
Regardless, it evolves, 
waiting to burst
from their cocoons, 
budding under my ribs. 

All rights reserved © 2023 Josephine Joyil


Cats out of the bag now, 
Let it play in the yard,
Get a lay of the land, 
And learn if the dark fabric 
Was home or hell. 
The land won’t be kind,
It never is. 
Cursed apples and forbidden trees, 
Pretty sickness waits to settle, 
Health demand a sacrifice. 
But play! If there’s still a yard. 
Tell me, 
Is that heat you feel 
A gentle summers kiss
Or the paint peeling from the walls? 
Let the cat return to its bag. 
That fabric was neither home nor hell.
It kept that kitten safe from both. 
Hope and loss and all other poison, 
Can’t burrow into that bag. 
But do you want that, feline friend? 
You’re out of the bag now.
The light may be from dawn or danger, 
But nonetheless,
You won’t ever be in the dark. 

All rights reserved © 2023 Josephine Joyil


The ducks are lining up again,

Nice neat rows,

Waiting to attack.

No, surely not.

I give the commands.

*I* give the commands?

They're stareing me down now,

Bleak black beady eyes,

With the glint of expectation.

Say something.


Never the wrong words.

Don’t ok an attack.


The last word I can remember.

The last word I’ll ever remember. 

For the ducks, 

Dumb drones,

Took their leader's word to heart.

And I met a feathery death.

All rights reserved © 2023 Josephine Joyil

Why did I stay?

I don’t think that’s the right question to ask. I didn’t stay. I never stay. I always have to make the mistake of leaving. Maybe some day I’ll learn and make better choices. It took me a while to learn to come back. I’ll tell you why I come back.

I mess up often, so badly that I don’t believe I’ll ever feel well again. It’s like stubbornly running at a wall, believing that you won’t get injured. But you always crash, face first, into brick. You’re a little dizzy, you step back and stumble onto the floor and look up to see that the brick wall extends to the sky and horizons. The daunting red looks over you and you know you won’t ever get past it. You’re afraid to turn around because you’re certain that people are waiting for you to catch their eye before they start laughing at you, that the silence behind your, that seems so calm, is simply a cruel joke waiting to happen. That fear overwhelms you and when met with that impassible brick wall, all you can think is that you’d have to spend your days staring at red. You can’t help but scream. You keep screaming and crying out of the fear that whatever comes afterwards, you wouldn’t be able to handle. Maybe they’d laugh at you, how embarrassing. Maybe there’s no one there to laugh at you and you were alone all along, how lonely.

Eventually, when you are done throwing your tantrum, you hear a voice call out to you, not particularly loudly, “Did you hurt yourself?” And you remember what it was that you were running from.

It takes you a minute to answer. How could you possibly afford to lose your pride? It’s a silly question to ask at this point —you just ran into a wall, how much pride could you possibly have left? — but you always ask.


“Let Me see.”

You wipe your eyes and turn around.

“Aww that’s not so bad.”  He says, smiling, “What were you trying to do?”

“I wanna get past the wall.” You point to something in the distance. Your voice is still a bit wobbly, and you manage to sound five.

“Ok.” He reaches out for your hand, “Let’s go see this wall.”

Hopefully you take His hand.

It isn’t until months later, when you’ve met another wall, one made of stone perhaps, and you’re rubbing your hurt nose again, that you remember you never thanked Him for getting you past the bricks.

He accepts your thanks and apology and requests all the same, reaching out to take your hand once again.

All rights reserved © 2023 Josephine Joyil

“Why do you like the beach?”

I said something one dimensional when you asked me. It wasn’t that I hadn’t thought about it. It was just that I couldn’t find the right words to answer the question. 

Maybe I have the words now? 

My favorite  place I’ve lived in as a child was California. We lived there for four years. We’d go to the beach often, so often that I can’t even remember it being significant. I remember for a science project in the fourth grade I wanted to compare solubility of… something, I can’t remember what. But I needed sea water, and after church we just drove to the beach. It wasn’t for fun, just for school, just for the sea water. The beach was that accessible, almost a staple, something needed but commonplace, taken for granted. 

We left when I was eight. I don’t think I saw the sea again until I was fourteen. 

I was at a beach in Kerela, India. There were too many people, a lot of noise, it was too cold and it had too much sand. I couldn’t for the life of me remember why I liked the beach so much as a kid. It was a rose colored memory, some naively beautiful story a child told herself, it had to be. I remember watching my mom and brother run toward the sea, calling after me to join them. They wanted to play in the water, not too far in, just far enough to feel the water crash against their legs and the soft silty sea sand wash over their toes. Maybe they thought it was wholesome fun. Looking out into the horizon, which drove waves crashing toward the shore, I was mesmerized by the turbulent, almost violent temperament of the water. How could you play like docile children before such a thing? Maybe it was a reality too large to comprehend, something to be ignored until it caused an issue. It brought me peace to realize I could relate. 

Later in life, when we moved down south, the beach became accessible again, not a weekend trip like it had been before, but with some planning and five hours of driving, we can make it happen. I think the first time I drove long distance was on a road trip to the beach, I can’t quite remember. 

Yes, at this point in my life, my family started going to the beach a lot again.

I remember sitting on a balcony one night at some vacation house in Florida, I don’t remember which one, and listening to the sea crash into the sand. It was too dark to see anything, but I could hear the ocean from a distance, beautiful beast. It must have been Christmas Break. Or maybe it was the day of? My mother had called her mother and, as I did a million times as a child, I listened in on their conversation. It was in Malayalam. Something about that paired with the sound of the crashing sea made me feel like I’m in my place. My ancestors lived in a coastal city. In another life, where different choices were made and different opportunities were presented, perhaps I would have been sitting by the ocean with my mother and grandmother, listening to them converse face to face as the Indian Ocean crept to the shore. 

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The Anti-Compliment Game

I look around me, watch smiling faces tease each other, and try to commit each of them to memory. This circle has been my company for the better half of the past month. They regarded each other with amicable familiarity, a sentiment I long to share. One day, not many months from now, I will be a familiar face to smile at, to tease affectionately. I would just have to bide my time. 

They were playing a game of anti-compliments, shouting out mundanities phrased as sweetness.  

“Kate, your nose is well proportioned despite your forehead.”

To which Kate replied,“Your IQ is quite adequate despite what your hair would lead one to believe.” 

It was a fun trainwreck to watch. 

A chair was pushed roughly into the circle, which parted like the Red Sea to accommodate it. Its occupant was a smiling boy, his light brown hair was matted down with rain and thin rectangular spectacles framed his smiling eyes. He interjected the jubilant chatter with news of his recent travels, of the delays on the Marta and the unfortunate weather that plagued his journey. All who listened did so eagerly. 

Someone else called out a jeer at his company’s expense. The retort that followed elicited laughter. 

When I heard my own name called, I sat up, scrambling for a possible response. The boy who called only smiled, “Don’t worry,” he said,“We won’t take a swing at you for a few more weeks.”

I smiled, relieved yet deflated. 

“Give it a month,” he smiled, before his neighbor stole his attention, saying he was well spoken despite his eyebrows.  

I sat back, smiling despite myself, and watched the mess I’ll belong to some day unfold before me. 

All rights reserved © 2023 Josephine Joyil


Sleep won’t keep me from you. I may only see you as an afterimage in the back of my mind, but I refuse to allow these dreams to slip back into its darkness as if they were only a mirage of what may have been a memory. I won’t set you free so easily. 

You taunt me, still; six years have passed but I cannot hear the sound of my own name without remembering how you sung it coyly, a staccato at each syllable. That may be why I truncated it, cut off the dead weight that reminded me of you.  

So when you wander through my dreams, don’t assume you’re traveling familiar terrain. I will see to it that you stumble over the slits in my subconscious. I’ll gauge them in myself just to make you eat dirt.

All rights reserved © 2023 Josephine Joyil