“To Begin, a Dear Reader” by Erika Hodges

2019-2020 Poetry Contest Winner

This is an arrival of the found. A
multiplicity of layouts on many
different timelines. I have tried to
distill what may be useful. What may
be read like a blueprint. If you have
been here before, you know that
glottals and aspirates feel different in
this itch. Once you have spent a little
time. It oils up.

The following is composed like vines
of flight through wildfire. This is for
those that have been here a while and
have stopped seeing difference. Only
noticing the ways in which to cope.

This is the page flipped. The glass
refracted. Crutches to another path.
Crumbs in a room with no doors.
Tunneling may not come up except in
fictions. I have thought of drawing
maps. Learning new and never before
discovered methods of cartography to
draw it for you. I wanted to draw it all
for you.

To make it clear but the sounds would
not come except in dissonance. So
you could possess a certainty that was
promised long ago but never
delivered. All attempts came up

The only option left was to leave these
notes. Twisted up and crammed in
corners or wherever I could fit them
in hopes of not being discovered –
except by you. Those that need it.
Because survivor, there are tunnels.

What they tell you is not true. There
are other means of lightness. Here lies
maps, wielded in words. The best that
I could do. Rooms made of books.
Rooms made of uproar. There is still a
chance that I will not make it out.
That I will be banished to parallels.
Even there I will believe in you. That
you will find these little letters and
compile them to be spread
in the secret of whispered passageway
to others like you. Waiting and
side-looking, so as not to draw
attention, for a way out.

I’m leaving it to you to decipher this
code, these vertigo narratives. For
tunnels may only exist under many
layers. I leave this for those that know
it when they see it. Know what they
see and what to do. Survivor, I will
always believe in your know. In what
you say or feel in fractaled glances. It
happened. It disappeared. It has not
happened yet. It can only exist in


Erika Hodges is a gender expansive poet and performance artist living and breathing in Brooklyn, NY. They are a graduate of Naropa University and an MFA candidate at Pratt Institute. Their work can be found or is forthcoming at Flag + Void, CALYX, The Adirondack Review, The Poetry Project and others. They are a 2020 Can Serrat residency fellow as well as a Brooklyn Poets Fellow. Erika is a volunteer at The Poetry Project as well as a poet’s assistant and archivist for elder poets in the community. Their work and life is deeply devoted to queer love, troubling the dystopian values of borders and binaries and the ideas of poetry and lineage as a sort of home.


“A Reclusive Kingdom Of Conformity And Disorder” by Brett Stout