Fives logo – a stylised number five

with Shira Erlichman

The last thing that made you smile

In Prospect Park I saw two middle school boys on skateboards holding hands while they rode. The world is entirely off balance, but they kept each other balanced.

A secret

A secret keeps part of ourselves separate from the world. In fact, the etymology of secret is “separate.”

Sometimes this separating is vital for our own survival: we must secret, must closet, must boundary, keep what’s only ours to know. But make no mistakes: the thing itself is not a secret. It is already known. It has blood, shifts, it has a witness: you, its cage and key.

For example, in the past I’ve kept my mental health private from employers because of the very real risk of stigma and very real potential for unwarranted firing. What was just a fact became a secret. When I started sharing with the world that I have Bipolar (hi!) it was no longer a secret. How strange, what a verb can do to a noun. I secreted.

Who was it that said, “God hides things by putting them all around us”? It’s true. All secrets are hidden in plain sight. Every one of your bones is a secret. Which makes me think of the first x-ray ever done. It was by physicist Wilhem Rontgen of his wife’s hand in 1895. The very first thing she said was, “I have seen my own death.” Death was always a fact, but seeing the hidden made that fact a wild, flying thing.

The last thing you wrote

A wild, flying thing.

Or, yesterday I got dizzy at a burger joint, so I wrote down what I wanted so my girlfriend could order for me. Or, some emails. Or, a tweet about how men think every interaction is a meet cute. Or, in the search bar of my phone: “Charloe and the choclste factory” (I type too fast don’t we all yes) because my girlfriend said it was originally a book by Roald Dahl & I didn’t believe her (it was). I suppose my point is that we’re writing all the time. If someone was learning how to read & write, they’d count those little events as something Real, even momentous. If we’re talking about poems, I’ve been writing—both on the page & in my head—something about an important bus ride I took seven years ago, but it’s so simple that it’s hard to write.

As of now, this is the last thing I wrote.

Your favourite city

I live in the most dynamic, stinky, bossy city in the world. I often say that running an errand in New York is like doing the Iditarod. It’s epic. I’ve seen a human organ on the subway. I’ve seen Ilana Glazer, Kate McKinnon & Emma Watson pass through a single restaurant in a single afternoon. I sit on geniuses’ couches on the regular & then watch them literally take over the world, ten glowing marquees at a time. I’ve walked the length of Manhattan down to the Brooklyn Bridge all the way to my doorstep, just because I wanted to, because the sun was sunning & I was hungry for everything. Still, I can’t claim a favorite city. I got spoiled by Northampton, MA, where I lived for six years. My favorite city is the river. I don’t need a home that never sleeps. Most days I just want a patch of grass & some good quiet. I want nobody around but trees, who are so much like the best people, if you engage them as such.

What you’d place in a time capsule

Rothko (orange & yellow) / a warm bath / Moscow Mule in a signature gently hammered copper mug / a tub of marbles / two rings & a necklace made by my friend & earthweaver Jessie Levandov / the one time I’ve been on a subway car alone / my dad laughing so hard he sounds like a hiccuping monster / View With a Grain of Sand by Wislawa Szymborska / thunder & hard rain while resting in an empty house / sea lions barking on the pier / swears in Hebrew, as taught by my Mom & Aba to my brother, girlfriend & I one summer night / Amy Winehouse singing “Valerie” (acoustic) / whales calling each other by name / coffee with too much cream / The Color Purple / a reel of the most artistic soccer plays in history / Joseph’s album “Native Dreamer Kin” / Werner Herzog narrating my autobiography / speechlessness / Lithium in pill form / Lithium in battery form / Lithium in rubber form / Queers not caring / Queers cackling / Queers inventing everything / longboarding the parking lot on Christmas eve / everything about Angel / my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Sodano’s voice / a collection of very soft wish stones / my brother’s album “Season of Increasing Light” / Kingdom Animalia by Aracelis Girmay / another cup of coffee (you’re welcome) / Prince’s eye contact (you’re welcome) / deep woods wet soil smell / a macaroon mint electric guitar / that one time my friend Kit dressed up as Emily Dickinson for Halloween & anytime anyone asked who she was she’d say, “I’m nobody, who are you?”

Shira Erlichman is a poet, musician and visual artist. In Hebrew Shira means poem and song. A three time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work can be found in The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed Reader, and PBS NewsHour’s Poetry Series, among others. She was awarded a residency by the Millay Colony, the James Merrill Fellowship by the Vermont Studio Center, and the Visions of Wellbeing Focus Fellowship at AIR Serenbe. Israeli-born, raised in Massachusetts, she now lives with her partner and big orange cat in Brooklyn.