This piece was originally published in Full Stop Reviews Supplement: Summer 2021. Subscribe at our Patreon page to get access to this and future issues. Your support makes it possible for us to publish work like this.

August 4, 2020

Dear Ayden,

It’s kind of odd and interesting that we met at a wedding, and here we are thinking together about the fiction of relationship, the construction of relationship. Our own has occurred over distance, after that one (only one!) meeting at the wedding. In the past, I have certainly held the fear that I construct relationships best over distance, fall in love when I am leaving, etc. What if this isn’t such a terrible trait, though? Maybe I don’t need to pathologize it. My friend Avery just moved away, and we were talking about a shared practice we have of falling in love right before we leave a place: she was describing her “final” Oakland relationship, and how she thinks perhaps she does this so that instead of having to say goodbye to the place itself — a goodbye which is overwhelming for her) she instead picks a person to represent the place. If the person stands in for the goodbye to the place, the parting shrinks. It can be a goodbye just from that person — or maybe not “just,” but concentrated in that person, focused, more manageable. 

“To concentrate” — that’s an interesting verb to consider here — I am thinking of lemon juice concentrate, which I am a bit of a snob about because I love lemons very much, and use them almost daily. I’m spoiled by my years in California! 

Is “to concentrate” to cheapen something? Either in the lemon juice sense, or in Avery’s sense. Or: In Ashon T. Crawley’s The Lonely Letters, which you and I are now reading together, the speaker, A, “concentrates” his thinking energies and loving energies toward, “Moth,” the addressee of A’s letters. Moth is sort of a composite imaginary and actual Beloved, and A writes the Lonely Letters to/toward this Moth. 

This action, or construction, doesn’t feel like a cheapening to me at all, nor a sort of escapist or commitment-phobic move. The narrator, A, is deeply engaged in relation, both thinking or defining and enacting it. He writes of great dedication to individual people and to community, particularly the community of Black critical-creative discourse and to the Black church, theology, music, queerness . . . But Crawley is also definitely aware of commitment-phobia, fear of abandonment, and loneliness: that whole family of the self in a bubble. Crawley yearns explicitly for romantic partnership, writing

I began to wonder if there is a link between legitimate fear of being left abandoned on the one hand and having had an experience of intensity and openness — to and by spirit, to and by love — left undone, unsettled, vulnerable on the other.

Crawley writes this in the context of a piece of music, but also opens his thinking beyond music, explicitly “entangling,” the thinking with other possible contexts. I’m curious what you think about how Crawley talks about “entanglement” throughout the book. He writes of how he came to mysticism because he didn’t want to be lonely, or at least he wanted to understand loneliness, and so perhaps if there is a divine Beloved we are never alone or don’t have to be alone . . . I feel entangled by this, having followed some related paths myself in moments of deep sadness or isolation or crisis, but having always come up against the problematics of a given type of organized religion or spiritual practice and (a perfectionist) turned away. I respect that A very much does not do this and I admire it, how the problematics of Black pentecostal practice are enfolded in his thinking. 

I also want to explicitly surface/enfold the fact that you and I are two white women writing about this book which is so deeply identified with Black experience, embodiments, concerns . . . I want us to be careful and conscious about what happens when we write about it with and from our specific bodies. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. I am thinking about how to state my own position of whiteness without centering it. Crawley writes: 

Whiteness is dependent on centering as its logic and ground of operation. To emerge from a way of life that is antagonistic to whiteness, to thought — theological thought — philosophical as racial hierarchizing, is to consider the ways the tradition of emergence precedes the concept of centering.

There is so much to unpack, discuss, and tangle here. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.



August 6, 2020

Dear Leora,

There’s so much to respond to in your letter and in a peculiar way, I’m grateful for the ways writing by hand in this slower embodied way will force me to concentrate my response. I certainly don’t feel that “to concentrate” is always to cheapen things — I like the density of this mode of attention — though perhaps necessarily it can lose freshness or immediacy. I’m thinking not just about the frozen orange juice concentrate my father drinks but also the ways my obsessions or lusts are intense, beautiful, and ultimately full of projection and fantasy. I admire Crawley’s way of writing for this: the way this is nonfiction, but Moth is a composite identity, a hybrid of the real and imagined Beloved(s), just as “A” is not necessarily Ashon. This duality is connected too to the concept of “de-centering” . . . and part of what I’m enamored with in this book is the way Crawley is both the originator and recipient of these lonely letters. In this way, a sense of individuality is simultaneously dissolving and being reconstructed. The role Crawley plays as the writer here fascinates me, not just because of the way the addressee and “yours truly” start to blend, but also because these letters are one-sided. Moth never replies, never is given a voice. What does that do for this authorial entanglement?

This is where loneliness comes in, where yearning can feel so acute. I recently watched The Kindergarten Teacher— the plot does not matter, but there was a quote that stayed with me: “Loneliness is still time spent with the world.” I think that’s why A’s loneliness in this book isn’t insufferable: these letters attend to such big questions about spirituality, embodiment, Blackness, practicing queerness. I can feel the body of the speaker and my own spending time with the world, not simply lost in the ache of loneliness. For when a love isn’t reciprocal, the world can still be there for us. Am I making any sense? I suppose what I’m trying to say is that Crawley is deeply concerned with embodiment, which is linked with the sensorial and being present, which is a key part of a lot of spiritual practice.

You use the word entanglement and I love this word so deeply. (My girlfriend is actually writing her dissertation on vital entanglement.) The connection between physics and spirituality connect around the word that evokes something messier than mere “interconnectedness.” And this too folds in the way The Lonely Letters approaches SOCIALITY. I’ve always felt like friendships are the great love stories of the 21st century and ultimately a really queer form of relating. Queer in the sense that they aren’t as clear in the expectations of relating, of how we become and stay entangled. The scripts of friendship (particularly in adulthood) aren’t as clear cut as the trajectories of romantic love. I delight in how we met too — that such a robust and rich dialogue has come out of our conversation before Rose and Brian’s wedding. (Again, entanglement!) I’m reading Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman and their book really reinforces some of these ideas. They have also talked about stories of sameness on their podcast and how women tend to want to connect around where they are similar. Sometimes that urge and desire to say, “Yes, I understand, I’ve had a similar experience,” can be harmful. 

That’s how I want to situate our awareness of race as we read The Lonely Letters together. I admire Crawley’s writing about queerness and sociality profoundly. I revere his embrace of the epistolary, of the way he makes academic writing feel pulsing and alive, enacted with breath and desire and shouting and song. I’m not so familiar with Black pentecostal practice, though, and I’d like to do some more research into the Hammond organ because I want to hear how it sounds. There are layers of this book that are unknowable to me, particularly because I don’t understand music (on a technical level, more so it’s an intuitive response in my body, which is why I’ve always been drawn to jazz) and have a very limited knowledge about Pentecostal practice. The unknowable seems very Barthesian to me — the ultimate unknowableness of a lover, of any person. And yet, as Crawley writes, I’m interested in “any movement, or hairsbreadth nuance of breathing, of dilation — contains within it the potential for the thing we call art.” And also: “Susceptibility and vulnerability together underscore the idea of existence as interstitial” and I like this sense that the body is porous, that I am thinking about my whiteness as permeable. I cannot shed my race, but I can become permeable so that the hierarchy and centering associated with whiteness can be dismantled. I like to imagine lots of little holes puncturing the skin of power . . . To this dilation! To this susceptibility! Where do you feel most susceptible?

More soon. Love, Ayden

August 11, 2020

Dear Ayden,

I find frozen orange juice concentrate very charming. Maybe because I am surrounded by gourmands and maybe even should call myself one or implicate myself in that but I resist it. For a few reasons. Isn’t it kind of colonialist to assume that anyone who likes food is snobby about it? Thinking about the peasant foods of my Eastern European ancestry and the Mexican spices and pickles my father taught me to make and how bland food makes me depressed. My father, who is very involved in the high-end coffee business, often reminds me how he also loves Dunkin Donuts, you just have to take it for what it is. It’s important to me to appreciate tastes — and objects — that have been elevated or considered refined equally to those that haven’t. 

Refinement is also something we could get into here, its implications of race and class and other signifiers, and what might I be performing or avoiding when I don’t want to be perceived as “fancy”? I try to be honest and not dodge, but at the same time I resent when I feel my individuality is being dissolved or reconstructed in the realm of the viewer/reader . . . To bring this back to the book: Hearing some of your thoughts on The Lonely Letters is a pleasant reminder that this kind of dissolution or reconstruction that I fear is also desirable. It’s something I also desire when I publish a text of my own. I feel very distinctly that moment of dissolution: oh, there go my words, out, out there where I can’t control or curate how they are received. I let go.

My friend Ellie, who is an artist and filmmaker, just published a very personal essay for the first time. She described to me how she stood on the sidewalk and wept with relief when she got the email from the editor telling her the piece was now up. 

It’s difficult not to add the conditions of the pandemic here, and think about how that weeping relief is more intense because the social is so limited at the moment. It feels even more joyous to imagine letting go of our own narratives into a broader social refraction. 

You write: “For when a love isn’t reciprocal, the world can still be there for us.” 

Crawley writes:  “I discovered something in the movement itself, something that could not be contained by a confessional faith, something that is not merely transcendent but that is, most fundamentally, constitutive.” 

Here, Crawley is talking about his paintings — which you and I haven’t addressed yet. The paintings are included in the book, and he makes them by listening to what he defines as “Blackpentecostal sound” and moving paint with his body in response, sometimes with feet and hands, sometimes with tambourine. As Crawley describes the paintings while he is making them and thinking about how he wants to make them, it feels to me “constitutive,” like Crawley’s very body is being made by the sound in some way and then passing this making on to another object to be further shared or related-with. 

I love what you write about sociality, and friendships as queer entanglement, and I wonder if we could say that Crawley is making friends with the paint here. In that livestream with Crawley that you and I both attended, Crawley said at one point that all of his friendships are Blackqueer relationships, no matter who or which bodies are involved in the relationship. He said that what he means by this is that because he is Black and queer, this enfolds all of his relationships, and that he lives his relationships through the frame of Blackness and queerness, that the histories of these identities inform the ways he relates with everyone.

People have been mentioning that Big Friendship book to me and I think I feel some resentment or something — I think as someone who has long prioritized friendship as the foundation of my adult life, I feel frustrated by someone feeling they need to preach to me about this. Or something? But “preach,” well. Then I think about how Crawley is entangled with and constituted by preaching, and this means I shouldn’t use that word as a throwaway, a judgement. May I be permeable to preaching, instead, while not letting it eat me alive, permeable in the way you express your desire for whiteness to be permeable. As in, I want to hold the reality of my white privilege while dismantling what is constructed to mean white, an identity that my ancestors certainly weren’t allowed two or three generations back. When they first came to this country, my ancestors weren’t considered white by the state apparatus, and now they are, we are, Eastern European Jews and light-skinned Mexicans are. We are counted differently in this day. 

I’ve been reading Brandon Taylor’s novel Real Life and thinking about how, as a cis white woman, I am overly trained in the language, performance, and expectations of vulnerability. I mean, vulnerability as the best way to connect, without considering closely how vulnerability does not fall evenly upon bodies. Real Life casts so thoughtfully the desire of one character to have the narrator “open up,” when said “opening up” does not serve the narrator, or the narrator’s safety, in the least. 

Crawley writes: 

we typically think passivity the antithesis of will and volition but she [here, speaking of Adrian Piper] opens up to other possibilities, that perhaps vulnerability is aggressivity too, that we need not to give up or relinquish passivity as a means to becoming normal, as a means to cohering with a normative epistemology of passivity and aggression.

Tell me, how can I ask how you are without forcing this, making it an aggressive act? Or, not “you,” but “You,” to echo Crawley. Answer any way that you like.



August 17, 2020

Dear Leora, 

I’m glad you brought up the paintings in The Lonely Letters because I’ve been thinking about them a lot myself and how essential they feel to the book, not as illustration, or representation (such a loaded word), but ENACTMENT. It’s hard to ignore the superficial ways they resemble Pollock and AbEx paintings from the 50s. These are fundamentally different in that “expression” though — they are not about predominantly white people pressing upon the limitations of painting formally. Crawley’s canvases are indexes of his gestures, which are spiritual, mystical, the result of vocal exertions, of a body seized by sound and breath, the “emancipatory” impulse A finds in Aretha’s song carrying the paint. They remind me of my friend Katherine Agyemaa Agard’s book of colour, which just came out. It feels as though her studio has come to life on the page as a dimensional space alongside her writing as she explores how colors and paint are made, alongside the way her body became “colored” (which is to say further racialized by whiteness) in Cambridge. I’ve always been interested in the ways certain ideas demand a particular form of expression, the ways text and image interact was the subject of my undergrad thesis and I always am appreciative of works that can enmesh the two without one feeling subservient to or reliant upon the other, which these do (though I wish I could feel them, be with them in a bigger, more textural capacity because there’s an inherent flattening in this form). 

You mention preaching and I must say, I don’t feel as though Big Friendship comes from a place of preaching, more one of opening and invitation (but I understand how when others articulate ideas and beliefs we’ve long held there can be resentment or resistance). It’s a hand extended to think about ways of relating and being and I am particularly grateful for how they attend to interracial friendships and Wesley Morris’ embodied concept of the trap door of racism, how abruptly a comment by a white friend can drop the friend of color through a hole in the ground. A hole that is deep and plummeting, so entirely different from the many small holes that make us porous and permeable, vulnerable and receptive, yet still whole. 

I’ve been thinking a lot too about our shared interest in care and disability and chronic illness and how this relates to holes large and small, to that uneven performance of vulnerability you mention we are trained in as white women, that question you pose about passivity and aggression at the end of your last letter. I’m not interested in performances of allyship, or I guess I’m generally mistrusting of performances and find they lead to a certain kind of loneliness that’s different from the loneliness of being. I read this book called A Primer for Forgetting by Lewis Hyde that had a moment where he wrote about how we are most ourselves when we forget ourselves. We occupy our identity most purely when it is subconscious and this reminds me of when Crawley writes, “my feelings of loneliness often feel like a dispossession or a displacement of sorts. And with him I’d felt a measure of being placed.” When do we evacuate and dissociate from our bodies? I do this most when I anticipate pain, a needle entering my body for a cancer screening, fear about the future. What I’m trying to say or think through is how holes in ourselves, occupying our own bodies and/or being displaced from them because of illness or racism or loneliness feels entangled in this moment in our country and the world. (I’m not trying to equate illness, racism, and loneliness, but think through the ways they each make us vulnerable.) The pandemic, the uprisings, the loneliness of this moment feels unbearable and necessarily linked. 

I am spellbound by the way this book carries quantum physics concepts forth as part of the discussions of intimacy. Crawley, or A, writes about how “Black and indigenous and queer folks have known for such a long time: there are things that happen in the world, in the universe that are not perceptible to human flesh. We cannot see on the quantum scale . . . we simply feel the effects of such material.” And then, later, “particles’ ‘current’ behaviors are based on their ‘future’ states.” I was so overjoyed to read this because as you know, my book Notes on Breathlessness thinks through how time is often nonlinear when it comes to queer relationships and illness. How quantum theories and reverence play a role in us better understanding “deep and capacious and abiding interconnection.” I wonder, what have you felt most reverent for/of in your life? What has attuned you to other scales of life (like the quantum level)? I would like to cinch this letter shut with some tidy thought about all this, but I’m going to resist that urge and leave room for it all to breathe, to be porous. There’s always so much more to say with us. 

I hope it’ll be in person once again soon. 

Love, Ayden

August 20, 2020

Dear Ayden,

The sky is orange-grey in Oakland from wildfire smoke. It’s blowing in from the north and south and east. I haven’t left my house in a few days. I’m here next to the wheezing air purifier in my living room. This kind of closeted experience stands in opposition to the entanglements we’re talking about in The Lonely Letters, the mere belief that we could keep danger of this sort out, when it is in the air we breathe.

I have been re-reading Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s The Undercommons in preparation for a strange new semester of teaching, and I have felt especially moved by their thinking on debt, how relationally they frame it. They write about how debt is social: to owe someone in a way that is not immediately paid back, that is owed, because it creates ties. Whereas credit, they write, is asocial: to give someone something in a way that holds your power over them and places them economically below you, in a sense. Moten and Harney suggest we continue to get in debt in an ongoing way, not as an offer to pay it back but as a way of living into interdependent social life.

I have been thinking about my own wish to feel needed, especially with friends, to be the one who gives, and the one who can fulfill need. I have been thinking about this in a new light, with Moten and Harney, how it is actually a very deeply rooted capitalist and supremacist tendency that I always want to be on the “credit” side of things and never want to owe. That desire, which you and I have discussed, to be an independent island. Politically and intellectually I know I am not, but there is work to be done, for me, in me, relationally. I need to re-read and re-read Crawley writing:

And what I mean is this: there is not only you in the world but you are my paraclete, and I, yours.

And what I mean is this: I want a consensuality with you, a continued consent to be together, a way of life that will always have friendship as the first and always plural operation.

And what I mean is this: entanglement might be the best way to approach what I feel, that once joined together, we are a system. We maintain our uniqueness regardless of the nearness or farness, we renounce the individual for the social, for and with and in each other. 

I love this also and especially because of the additive quality of meaning-meaning (“and what I mean is this…”). It feels so luminous to me that knowledge-creation is happening between “A” and Moth, by virtue of their exchange, regardless of content. And that this section above is also a love confession, specific and generalizable, both. 

In this book, Crawley works against that calculus that capitalism generates in us (or, I should say, to take responsibility: in me) by gesturing within responsive individual relationship to the quantum scale, as you said, to the bigness of things and the tinyness of others, and how when we go to this scale our calculations break down because we breathe one another in and out. We sweat one another in and out, or covid (maybe) aerosolizes between us and clings in public space no matter how rich you are. 

With this quantum scale comes also, as you describe, reverence, even holiness. At one point Crawley writes of “mortification of the flesh as a means of attempting an ideal of the religious, the spiritual . . . ” He questions what this means for “those of us that are mortified, abject,” writing, 

What of those of us that breathe heavy when we walk down the street? What of those of us, in other words, that do not have to become or be initiated into such an experience of bodily pain but experience it as a grounding of being?

Crawley proposes abject experience as a door through which we might “dispense of the normative ideal” and at the same time touch into a kind of mystical access. This is, in part, my answer to your question about what makes me feel reverent. In its odd way, my experience with chronic illness and pain (as you brought up) brings me reverence because of the miniscule it requires me to attend to, the centimeters of growth I was tracking on my MRI this week, or the dramatically slow pace of a day when I am recovering from a surgery. 

I mean this less in the sense of reverence for the workings of a complicated human body and more in the sense of how humbled I am. Humility sustains me and makes me feel more connected — which is of course coming from a place of privilege, how my white cis body has been trained in many subtle and unsubtle ways with the expectations that it will dominate, perfect, succeed . . . and when it fails these, I experience relief. 

Through times of pain and illness I have connected to a whole range of thinking — in disability and queer theory, primarily — that also sustains me. Just today a colleague mentioned to me “weak theory” (which I need to look up) because I had brought up to her my own interest in the stance of failure. This all, to answer your question, sustains me. 

And The Lonely Letters does, too — even more so because Crawley opens the world of critical theory (a discipline not known best for being welcoming to all minds and approaches) to those readers who might not have a background in it. It has a vibe of you need to have expertise to join in here –— not in a way that denigrates his own intelligence or accumulation of knowledge and linkages between texts. 

Does this feel rare to you, too? How do you feel in the environment of theory? Do you feel welcome in Crawley’s world, and/or do you have a sense of why? He is an academic, but humble. What a dreamboat! Maybe that inclination to dream of this comes from my years of being a teacher, but it also comes from elsewhere. You know from reading my work in progress that I’m also very interested in the humble or submissive stance when it comes to being placed in the victim role of established or historical victim-oppressor dynamics. 

The book I just finished started from my own desire to engage power-play (and, generally, play) when I was living as an American Jew in Germany, having a hard time avoiding the topic of the Holocaust. It was so very heavy. I asked then, and am still asking: what happens if I, in that position, make jokes about being perceived as a dirty, hairy Jew? What kind of submission is also a darting? Darting-toward as a form of darting-away. I think of the “parry” after the jab, in boxing. 

Kickboxing exercise videos have been a major weakness of mine during quarantine. Or maybe not a weakness — a strength? There I go again. What is force directed unto the self, not as a route to victim blaming or self harm but directed by a true sense of agency? I’m not sure true agency outside of racialized training is ever possible, but I’m willing to try, to play, to do these goofy-as-hell kickboxing videos in front of my laptop, the only sound the squelch of my humid sneakers on the wood floor. And my breath, I guess. Thinking of you and your Notes on Breathlessness reminds me to factor in the breath. I’m hoping this smoke around us is not too hard on your lungs today, and looking forward, as always, to getting a whiff of your thoughts.



August 31, 2020

Dear Leora,

Thankfully the smoke of the wildfires isn’t making its way here; I’m relieved you’re leaving that area. The first time I fled from a fire I remember how differently I understood what I needed, how little it was. I have been thinking a lot about how hard it is to express my needs as a consequence of valuing empathy (and being greatly empathetic, greatly permeable to others’ perspectives and wanting to meet their needs), how uncomfortable it is to need something. Maybe it would feel less demanding, richer if I talked about sustenance. A comes back again and again to think about what sustains him. I like this as a question, What sustains you?

You asked about how I feel about the environment of critical theory and academia and the truth is I feel bound to it. I delight in it, I detest the way it alienates so many, particularly those who are often already marginalized. Or to be more specific, I delight in nerding out, in permission to always go deeper into words (my own and others’), but it feels important that it be of service somehow to others, not merely a solipsistic pursuit. In your earlier letter you mentioned fearing being perceived as fancy, which people have always used as an undercutting criticism towards me. I fear people perceive me as condescending because of my knowledge or taste (and also because I’m not naturally very funny), rather than studious and curious. (In fact, the more I study and teach the more I relinquish feeling like I know and understand everything.) I am terrified of isolating myself in a white tower of intellectualism, of going further with more degrees even though to keep studying and have that role be sanctioned by an institution seems decadent somehow.

All this is to say, this is why I so deeply felt The Lonely Letters — each letter is a flexing, embodied interweaving of queer theory, Black studies, music, eros, intellect, art, friendship, religion, body, breath. It is critical and creative all at once. Funny you mention Moten, I was just reading his series of poems in The Service Porch that are taken from art class critiques with students and admiring deeply how they bring together his role of poet, educator, critic. It’s an all at onceness that I want to bring to my own life and practice and way of being in whatever is next. How I aspire to not have to compartmentalize my practices as distinct identities but to let them always more fully intermingle as Crawley does, as Moten does.

Institutions are the trouble of course — they are systems that press and flatten and deplete us, while also protecting us and offering some avenues of safety. I fear this sounds overly simplistic, so I will say, I don’t know what I would do without the health insurance of the university where I teach and study. It’s true, my labor is exploited, but also, I have been cared for so well by the doctors and nurses and technicians here. I have many trans friends who’ve had access to hormones and surgeons for the first time in their lives thanks to this university system. Sometimes it bores me to critique institutions, I am not saying anything new really, there are people who are far smarter saying more astute things than me about this. 

What I’m trying to say is that, as someone who has to have cancer screenings every six months and could need major operations at any moment, I see the ways I need institutions (at least until there is universal healthcare). This feels like credit though, not debt; it is asocial need. Institutions do not care about our failures, our weaknesses. I like this notion of weak theory because it reminds me of The Queer Art of Failure by Jack Halberstam which has been in my to read pile for ages. How do we theorize failure? How do we write theory about collapse, unproductive processes that result in nothing? I have a file folder documenting failed projects on my laptop — one image is of a plaster mold of my breasts I made in my early 20s in which I stuffed dough, let it rise but then could not extract it to bake it as planned, so it crusted over and got a new skin. Little bits of yeasty pale crust stuck in the nipples. The sculptures collapse seriousness; when we fail it dissolves into humor.

I wanted to end this exchange by thinking about all the ways that “A” signs his letters. They are so much more than the simple extension of “Love, A” most of the time. Sometimes he simply leaves his initial, but more often than not, they are gestural towards that knowledge making you refer to, the co-creation of correspondence feels elastic and truly relational in the departure. The ways we part in writing intrigue me — how varied the sentiments are that he indicates. I made a strange little conversation poem out of a few that I pulled out.

Reaching still,

Saying the same thing, differently,

I’m rambling,



In potentia,

That’s all,

And I.

I want to be an instrument.

For you, with you, in you.

If only.

May that which makes us one be always with you,

(Even if by withdrawing, by letting go,) we continue,

Ever yours,



Looking back at the dates of these letters, what great distances we have travelled, wading deeper into loneliness, myriad departures from places and people, the deep cold of winter, made weightier by caretaking for loved ones. We taught a full year on Zoom, we both found a series of new homes to land our bodies, we continued to carry the Lonely Letters as guide in how to reach when reaching is both impossible and the only thing to do. What is the use of reaching now? How does the reach of my arms feel different as the world unfurls again? (Unfurling is the only word I have been able to use that feels appropriate right now, for we’re not returning, reintegrating is too stiff, and reentry sounds much too close to border patrol). 

Thank you Ashon and Moth for writing, for reaching, for inviting us into this loneliness.

Leora Fridman is author of My Fault, selected by Eileen Myles for the Cleveland State University Press First Book Prize, among other works of poetry, prose, and translation. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New York Times, Joyland, Coven Berlin, and LitHub, and her work has been supported by organizations including Fulbright, the NEA, and Creative Capital. She is currently Visiting Professor of Creative Nonfiction at St Lawrence University. More at

Ayden Leroux is a writer, artist, and critic from New England whose work focuses on the convergence of illness, sexuality, and embodiment. Her essays, fiction and criticism have appeared in Guernica, Lit Hub, Electric Literature, Catapult, Entropy, and Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. She is the co-author of Odyssey Works with long-time collaborator Abraham Burickson, and is working on a book of nonfiction titled Notes on Breathlessness.

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