Remember when only sold books?
Poetry (5/6)

Remember when only sold books?

“Huddled in shadows”. Greta Riondato Ink, watercolor and digital.

Remember when only sold books?

In the wee hours of the night
I fall down an internet hole
& resurface with an air purifier
“From Earth's Biggest Selection”
reads the confirmation on my phone
After the dopamine wears off, I text a friend: i mildly hate myself 
tho I'd like to think I hate Jeff Bezos as well


Dopamine can trick my brain 
but seems it cannot trick

                             my lungs

            hurt so bad when wildfire smoke rose

cloaked partitions between BC 



         My body

                                           craved clean oxygen

Weeks of rust coloured skies 
           & weak bodies
                                            of water 
A camera roll overflows
                with smoggy ocean nudes 


Looks like Beijing said my father—a mood
as white people stared at my Asian face before 
complaining about made-in-China goods 
taking too long to ship from Amazon
during the COVID-19 pandemic

Meanwhile, in an elementary school class 
a child asks if they are called “Gen Z” 
because they are the last generation
on the planet e—
& now I hear babies born during 
and after coronavirus are called 
“Gen C”

How many air purifiers does the earth need 
to breathe? I wonder
if Gen Z or Gen C will learn any names
of the 16,000 species of trees growing
in the Amazon jungle
‘It cannot trick my lungs’. Greta Riondato 2023 Ink and digital.

Smoke signals

...are perhaps the most beautiful form of the letter ever to evolve.
For what is a letter but to speak one’s thoughts at a distance?
Which is why poems and prayers are letters.
The origins of poems, prayers, and letters all have this in common: urgency.
     —from "Remarks on Letters” by Mary Ruefle

A dog at my bedside barks
at the screech of a mailbox
In this dream, two mouths open 
and close, unhinged

Within my 30-year lifetime
a posted letter became an e- 
mail, became a text
message, became a tweet, 
became a 15-second
story, vanishing on instagram

     The origins of poems, prayers, and letters 
     have all this in common: urgency.

no dms I type in my bio 
(limited to 150 characters)
I would rather receive a letter.

But there is no mail today
just a photocopied flyer
for yard services from a man
named Trinh Nguyen

we’ve all romanticised letters

     Which is why poems and prayers are letters.

Along ancient China’s great wall 
a wisp of smoke
was a signal for threat

And is this why my poems
and tweets and vanishing
stories are more often A Cry
For Help?

Can anyone hear me shouting
into the void?

Void... void... void... [echoes]

     For what is a letter but to speak
     one’s thoughts at a distance?

[Dog yowling into the night]

     Smoke signals are perhaps the most
     beautiful form of the letter
     ever to evolve.

$888/1br—looking for home (vancouver/unceded coast salish territories)

     For Luca & Nina

Morning light saturates my face
as I poop, read a poetry chapbook
& absorb vitamin D

Is this what you would call ‘peak
multi-tasking’? I hear some
cannot will not poop in other people’s homes
or public washrooms, but I guess
I am an exception

On the bathroom counter
potted purple shamrock
stretches leaves to bask in sun

I had worried while brushing my teeth
last night, the houseplant huddled in shadows
as if folding in, upon itself

This summoned memories of a place
where I lived, nearly ten years ago:
a roommate who offered to share food
with everyone, but me

Never knew what I did do to her
To be made to feel as if I should fold
in upon myself, too

Each time I move homes
I discover something new—

Such as, I am allergic to cats
Need a copy of the lease. Post-it notes are not
an effective form of communication.
I really love large windows.

Sometimes leaving is a choice
But not always in this teardown-
renovicting-jerkface of a city

Suffocating in a shitty housing situation
is too often code for “I can’t afford to live anywhere else
on my own/without mould”

My friend say they’ve killed this plant
in their bathroom a dozen times, if not more
It comes back to life again each time
they spin its body towards the light
or pour it a glass of water

A note on the title: This poem was drafted at a time when bachelor/studio/small 1-bedroom apartments in Vancouver, BC—one of the most expensive cities to live in, both in Canada and North America—could be rented for $800-1000 per month. This kind of rent was often connected to specific apartment units with tenants who were grandfathered into lease agreements in older buildings. Sadly, this now seems next-to-impossible to find. I hope anyone with affordable, below market-rate rent can safely and happily live in their home for as long as they so choose.
Filed Under: Poetry & Prose

Three Poems by

Erica H Isomura is a writer and multi-disciplinary artist from the west coast. A recipient of ROOM Magazine’s Emerging Writer Award, her work has also appeared in Briarpatch, The Fiddlehead, carte blanche, and Vallum: contemporary poetry, among other publications.

Illustrations by

Greta Riondato is an Italian multimedia visual artist, sculptor, designer and mother of two. Born and raised in the Veneto region of North Italy, Greta has been immersed in the world of art her entire life.

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