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superstitions - after Devin Gael Kelly

by Em Townsend


if you’re peer-pressured into making new year’s resolutions. if you never know what to wish for
when there’s a birthday cake in front of you, so you close your eyes and smile. if you wait for the
annual moment of aging to be over. if you count to ten in your head before you make bad
decisions, and to five before good ones. if you never learned how to pray. if you knock on wood,
and plastic, and glass, and doors of people who were nice to you once. if you believe in second
chances. if you believe in the kindness of the universe, despite everything. if the car has to be
locked three times. if the car could explode at any second. if you keep secrets like it’s your job. if
the quiet world of nighttime is a poem all on its own. if you have something to say but you keep
it inside. if you hold your breath when the river swallows you. if you blow out the candles until
the whole house is dark. if you tell stories that may or may not be true until your mouth is a
desert. if you set alarms for every five minutes for the rest of your life. if you fall back asleep
anyway. if you wash your hands once, twice, three times during flu season. if you scrub away at
your thoughts with dish soap. if the benefit of the doubt will never be enough. if you don’t watch
the news. if you feel guilty when you don’t watch the news. if you fill your pockets with
four-leaf clovers. if you’ll write about anything and anyone except yourself. if you always make
note of the emergency exit. if you’re plotting your escape, even as you write this, even now.


Em Townsend (they/she) is a queer nonbinary writer and student from the Washington D.C. area. An English major and radio station nerd at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, Em enjoys watching ’80s teen movies, reading, and looking at trees. Their work is published in Fish Barrel Review, The Purposeful Mayo, Blue Marble Review, Club Plum Literary Journal, and HIKA magazine, and is forthcoming in West Trade Review. Em’s debut chapbook growing forwards / growing backwards is out now with Bottlecap Press. More information at:

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