Projects
Sophie Szew

Annabelle

Sophie Szew

In the depths of it,

We were Polly Pockets;

Tiny, shriveled, disheveled

And forgotten.

Barely breathing out

Of our plastic noses.

Shrinking away

Into the black crevices

Of the playroom.

Then we became Barbies.

We were picked up

By little girls

Who fixed us in to

Little houses

We couldn’t get out of.

Yes, our organs didn’t fit in our body,

Yes, we would topple over our bony feet,

But we were played with.

When we were American Girl Dolls,

We had stories.

A Jewish girl who lives in stage makeup.

A bullied girl who stood up.

A gymnast girl who fell down.

A writer girl, who lives in a Depression.

But we were designed carelessly.

Untie a string,

And our heads would pop off.

Now we are Cabbage Patch Kids.

We look

Full and sturdy

Strong and ready

To make all the little girls

Happy.

We want it, yes, we want it.

Who am I kidding?

I don’t want to be full of stuffing.

Ashrei para la AMIA

Sophie Szew

All Wrestler’s Children must wonder why our prayer is missing the Hebrew letter nun.

Because as those who drink the blood of question, spit it out, and make the rich drown,

Curiosity is our antidote to the agony of parasitic infection.

Dealing with the missing letter drapes our brains in protection,

Eclipses thoughts of the bombs that re-kill the dead of our nation.

Fauda is what the hole in us creates; I mean both chaos and Netflix’s political flirtation.

God, give us strength, to fill it with you, El Elyon

Help our death become something humans no longer teach their children to bet on;

If you do we’ll remember the sacrifices of the shtetl and wrap their souls in our tefillin.

Joshua said “be strong and resolute.” Who? The six million, eighty-five, or the villain?

“Kadosh baruju!” we cried out in petition.

“Lo! Do not let us die in the demolition.”

Mother moon’s light is how we see time, not the spirit of Father sun.

“Oy vey!” cried the ones at the cemetery who survived enough to run,

Peering at the holes in the belly of others who were once proud to be human.

Queerly still lies the navel of the mangled abdomen

Right where Eve’s apple flew out of her skin.

See, all life (and death) is kin

True though: we are separated by the dichotomy of brainwashing and education.

Ultimately, what unites us is this realization:

Violence is not just murder; it is incorrect translation,

Words like AMIA mean nation of God, and not an organization.

Xenophobia is their Xylophone, a childhood sound that blocks out the siren

Yes, because they believe we are half-birds that breathe deceit into our davening songs.

Zadikim will not smile until there is justice, justice for Nisman.

Description:

This is a collection of poems I have written over the last year about different parts of my identity, including being a mental health advocate and a POC. I hope that these pieces each provide hope and inspiration for those who read them.

1. Introduce yourself!

I am a first generation Jewish Latina American who just graduated high school. (I am currently taking a gap year!) This year, I founded the Youth Latinx Leadership Conference (YLLC) which was an all day event meant to connect underserved Latinx high school leaders with top professionals. Some speakers who participated in the conference include Sen. Alex Padilla, Rep. Grace Napolitano, poet Carmen Jimenez Smith, and representatives from companies such as Emile Learning Co., NBC4 News, Spectrum News One, SUMA Wealth, and Zone One Entertainment. Our partnership with Spectrum News One allowed us to secure two news interviews with our partner nonprofit Nuevo Amanecer Latino Children’s Services (NALCS), which I have worked with since I was 12. The two interviews led over 500 families to inquire about fostering unaccompanied and undocumented children who crossed into the US from Latin America though NALCS. I was recently selected as one of 30 Youth Advisory Board Members for Lady Gaga’s mental health organization: Born This Way Foundation (BTWF). I write articles for Born This Way Foundation’s News platform called Channel Kindness. I also love to write poetry, and have been published by a few literary magazines and also edit for BreakBread Magazine. I started writing seriously while I was in the hospital for an eating disorder in order to bring awareness to the issues that I believe contributed to my mental illness, including the diet and fitness industries. Aside from writing and Latinx/mental health advocacy, I love children! I teach at Sinai Temple Religious School and at NALCS’s classroom for unaccompanied minors. All of these aspects of my life and identity inspire my literary creations.

2. How have you identified yourself as a BIPOC individual through your creative work?

I identify as a POC individual in my writing by speaking up about the issues that I have endured that tend to affect BIPOC. I also tend to write in Spanglish as a means to connect with my Latinx identity. I hope that my writing will inspire BIPOC people who have faced/are facing mental health challenges.

3. How has your creative work allowed you to express yourself?

My creative work has allowed me to dive into the issues that I have faced through a platform that can reach others who have similar life experiences.

4. What is your stance on BIPOC representation in the media?

There isn’t nearly enough of it!! While some media platforms are moving towards inclusion, there is still a LONG way to go until POC are accurately represented in the media.

5. How has your culture influenced your work and who you are today?

My culture is my work and my work is my culture! My identity pushes me to write about the issues I care about as a minority, and in turn, my writing pushes me to explore my identity further.

6. What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, I enjoy listening to music, reading, eating, and watching TED Talks or Netflix (depending on what kind of day it is).

7. Who are some of your favorite creators and/or greatest inspirations?

In the summer of 2020 I was given the opportunity to take a poetry class with one of my favorite poets, Stephanie Burt, who continues to inspire my writing. (I highly recommend her book Advice From the Lights to everyone!) my other favorite poets include Carmen Jimenez Smith, Terrance Hayes, and Lady Gaga (I 1000% consider much of her music to be poetic!)