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fall semester by Amber V. '24

in the form of those modern poem books you buy for $15 at Urban Outfitters

a disclaimer

some events are slightly out of order

I was not really looking at the stars til later



honor me, honor me, honor me.


Do you remember in spring

how your body wasn’t your own, 

because MIT could not afford you sleep or solitude

and you were desperate for sun.

there was nothing to eat that wasn’t smothered in grease

never will I force myself to 

live that way again.

Or so I said.


I feel like I have not run in days

like I haven’t slept

I feel like someone else

someone strange.

honor me, honor me

My body won’t stop begging


I think it is too soon to be counting the months.

I think of spring and what I learned, what knowledge I gained, and I can show you pictures of the muscles I have not sustained, and I drew a bunch of skeletal structures, glued pipes together.

I can code a bit in Fusion now.

I still do not know Python.

I guess I understand how vectors move in polar coordinates

and Six of Crows was good

and anyway there was a pandemic


this semester will be different

this semester will not be so empty,

with nothing happening at all except a lot of work and wasted effort.


This all will feel more real some day. I just do not know when.


late September.

I wrote about a month ago. I did a sub-par essay.

I sat here for two hours, thinking of characters,

but that doesn’t do all that it used to,

when I was taking them out every day. 

Now I worry that it’s been too long, that I’m getting something wrong.

That the love interest does not fill his own space the way I want him to. 

(though come to think of it that particular character never has.

I’m always re-writing him

fixing his opening lines)


“How are you doing?”

I keep trying to think of something to say

that isn’t the same tired refrain

of me listing the number of espresso shots I’ve had that day

or the hours of sleep;

one too many,

the other never enough.


it’s not that I don’t encounter creative work

I have every opportunity to blog

more that I don’t have the wherewithall

to think of words that are good

my insights could be deeper

my lines could actually rhyme

if I were writing this in summer.



I always used to study alone, write alone. 

But psets aren’t structured to be done alone. And I am not built to spend so many hours hunched over work in the dark of my room. Better to do it in good company.

This is one thing I love. One thing I have done properly.

every evening finds me in the lounge of Putz,

legs curled below me on the big red sofa,

surrounded by friends. I’m


intermittently to the free food table,

or the kitchen

or just to the other lounge

to see if anyone’s around

willing to be distracted.


We strung a hammock from the ceiling

me balancing on someone’s shoulders

to tie the knots.

A course 6 sophomore bakes chocolate chip cookies after each of his midterms.

I share no classes with him so it’s always a surprise

when somebody says ‘cookies’ and the hall swarms

to the kitchen


I say hello to everyone who passes by

so much that I’ve pavloved many of them into doing the same

when I come in


you are here

you are seen.


late October.

I had a fight

and sulked a lot

and realized that everything before had mostly been good

albeit fragile

and that there are people who listen to your drama

even when it’s mostly petty

and they’ve heard you hash it out like seventeen times



early November.

I was walking back through the Infinite with a friend of mine, Jordan P. ‘24. It was just after 1 am. We’d gone to all-you-can-eat sushi for three hours, then gone back and churned out a pset. The pset was for 18.03, differential equations, and it was easier than usual. We checked it between each other and felt confident about the answers.

Sunday night: the Infinite was empty. We were promising each other that next semester we’d take fewer classes. No more than three technicals, she said. Three? I said. I’m a HASS major, mate, I wanna take just two. Instead I’ll take Harvard classes. (Jordan has good reviews of her Harvard class). Next semester I will not take six classes! 


we were talking about how we did not know the basement tunnels, despite living in EC, because we didn’t have time to get lost. Not in the grand sense of the word, either, just that we didn’t have time to walk down the wrong basement hallway on the way to class, couldn’t squeeze an extra five minutes of wiggle room in to account for mistakes.

We should put in our schedules, she said, noon to 1: wander. But not tonight. Because tonight we still had work to do.


I like how full every day is. I don’t believe in rest.

but I wish that at the end I had done more things I care about


more making metal shot glasses and earrings and Princess Leia costumes

more essays on Chicano culture01 plug for 21H.270, Latinx In the Age of Empire, lovely class

(or just more time to comprehend

the 30-page articles

I always start

and rarely finish)

more editing the chapter

my creative writing prof left such nice comments on

more sitting on the fire escape 

legs dangling above the void

insulting the stars in Boston

telling Jordan that in the desert they’re much brighter

you can see whole constellations

from the middle of the city.

in the desert

it never gets so cold



there is a certain camaraderie to finishing a pset together at 3 am

and walking down the hallway

dead-beat and exhausted

arms over each other’s shoulders.

My friend was juggling more than me,

more classes and more life

we’d listened to each other’s problems earlier in the evening

and now we wanted nothing more

than sleep.


I keep a list in chalk above my desk

grouped haphazardly by date

each date above a cloud of names

of every person I’ve connected with that day

scrawled so messily that you can only make out the first letter,

if that:

the swoop of an M or an S or the scribble that looks very little like G

I started it when I felt lonely

and I look back on it when I need to remember

that there are lots of lovely people here.


writ large on Wednesday, a very kind soul who stayed up two hours to help a friend and me with 2.001

and the friend, who I meet each week the night before the pset is due,

who I wish I could see more often—

some day, when we have time —

and the people I had dinner with,

the people in the lounge,

the classmate who texted me “are you okay?” 

when I came to class thirty minutes late with dark shadows beneath my eyes.

thanks for checking on me

I am tired,

but I am fine.


How are you?


late November.

Sometimes I feel like I’m changing so quickly

like I’m somebody different

doing things I’d never done before;

and at the same time like I’m me,

the me I was always gunning toward,

and it’s almost embarrassing that it took so long to get here.


I sent my little sister a picture

of me on the metal claw of a bulldozer

to which she texted:

‘ur like, thriving rn. 

u have weird jackets. 

and big metal things to climb on.

and sciency shit.’


I grinned at the phone

thought of typing out a list of complaints:

the work I hadn’t done yet

the sleep I was missing

but she, too, has deadlines.


thank u thank u

I told her how the jacket smelled like machining oil

since I wore it to a makerspace

where I made a costume bra out of aluminum and chain. 

It was easier than I’d expected

to bend metal in my hands

like the wire in my jewelry, only bigger;

to mark in Sharpie where to cut it down

and pass it through the band saw

like the scroll saw dragons I’d cut out in middle school, only louder;

to bore holes and thus distribute tension

and arrange all the chains.

It’s not quite the same process

as weaving together good words

but all the same I’d made something.


anyway how are u?

how’s tucson

what music are you listening to now?


early December

(is almost beginning

and the semester’s almost done).


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