Introducing: Roya Backlund


Starting a monthly series of poetry, Roya Backlund explores femininity and nature in a collection of three works.



after Megan Falley



  • A tongue caramelized with longing
  • Spaghetti straps sent home from school, al dente
  • Every time she was told her body did not belong to her, seared into memory
  • Sugar and spice and everything nice ground to a pulp and then internalized
  • Hundreds of pairs of underwear, marinated in blood
  • Every fairy tale story, minced until she is neither the damsel, nor the prince, but the dragon
  • All the broken promises of a man, sautéed in laughter
  • A prom dress braised in peach schnapps and pressure
  • Masculinity and femininity emulsified, then thrown away
  • All the times her potential was doubted, kneaded until soft
  • Whatever society tells her, bruised until she makes up her own mind
  • All of her tears, scalded for strength
  • A heart that keeps beating, even after it’s been eviscerated
  • Bullshit fried, confronted, and for once, without apology
  • A mother’s best (and worst) advice, distilled and drizzled on top

Cook in a pan greased with fight. Toss until you’re ready to come to terms with everything. It can be served with gilded utensils and chewed by the most delicate of jaws, just as it can be served raw and ravenously bitten into, the bits and pieces dribbling down your chin.

Prep: A lifetime

Yield: A different girl every time

Level: Nothing we won’t survive





You ask why I still haven’t picked up my things

from your apartment.


Well, I’ve been gliding through dreams,

through iridescent, fleshed-out fantasy lands of my own creation.

Then I wake—gasping for breath, sweat in my palms,

as it all dries up in the dark.


I set myself up for the agony of reality

when it’s never meant to be more than that. I’m disappointed

that I choke on spit instead of stars, that the morning after

leaves the taste of perishing in my mouth.


I wanted you to fill all the empty in me,

the sinkhole I’ve dropped plenty of people through

and I’ve never heard the thud of them hitting the bottom.


We could have been cartographers

mapping out the ancient roads that run through us,

could have spread our unruly bits

all over the distant lands we travel to,

then watched what strange plants grow.


The world never gave us a second chance but together,

we’ll be who we want to be.


I’ve heard that I do this to myself

and people are not cotton candy clouds

that dissolve on your tongue. They might bring us flowers

but its just petals to cover the thorns on the hands

they want to touch you with. They are to be admired,

not slept in—helpless and vulnerable before the sun rises.

It’s common knowledge.


Maybe the lagoon in your eye was just the tar pit I needed

to swallow me whole.


I refuse to answer that question.




For everyone else, I have been warrior,

gunpowder clouds swirling after my words,

more bullet than bite. I need them all to know

I will pull triggers to protect the people

living inside of me. For them, I wear iron

before they can lay their hands on me.

I never leave the house without my breast plate,

without an army echoing my name,

without a blade sitting so close to my heart,

the chafing is worth the protection.


For him, I am naked in the open woods,

motherless fawn embracing the arrows

aimed at her way. I am skin brittle as gold leaf

and I will be so vulnerable if it means catching

his eye. For him, I wear nothing but the teeth marks

he leaves behind. I will sunbathe beneath his axe

and wait for the fall, my body becoming

a mound of lumber chopped, dripping, the relief

flowing like tree sap. He can build

whatever he wants to.



Words: Roya Backlund

Images: Jessie Gardiner

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