Andrew Squitiro On Controlling Breath & His Obsession Since Puberty
A pill before coffee. After supper. With milk.
You only like me because I’m never around.
The stars in a hostile night. I’m burning. Your pulse
is the rotation of your body: your light: your signal.
The lake where your parents raised you. Cicadas. My heart
beating Morse against yours, muffled by ribs and skin.
Breath without speech is still language to me.
Andrew, it’s Anna. Your voice on the machine.
I walk over your fallen breasts, hanging like leaves across the spot
my heart is buried. I rarely pray.
I wonder how other people spend their days. I’m wandering
like a patient from his bed. Puzzled by a bus stop.
I wish I could tear your heart out, spread it like jam
across unfinished skin, show you how large it is
when crushed. Not everyone is strong. Pardon
my silence in the crook of your thighs, know
that if organs were land, yours are all mountains
and mine are made of sand. Don’t stop me
when I falter, spread your fingers
as I fall. Some people need good
to see evil, and I need
something awful to deserve you.
Q & A with Andrew Squitiro and editor Joanna C. Valente
JV: Talk to me about your linebreaks. How do you determine them?
AS: Line breaks are all about controlling breath. Ideally a readerreads your work out loud, so verse becomes sheet music in that way. But also textually, something you can’t hear at a reading but can see on the page is how certain words fit together. If two halves of a sentence share the same line, that’s got to mean something.
JV: What would you say is your obsession right now? As poets & artists, we are sometimes defined by these obsessions in our work.
AS: I’ve obsessed over love since puberty. I obsess over it in a similar way that I think a rabbi obsesses over God. In the existence of both God and love I remain agnostic, but that’s okay. Certainty would replace obsession. Kierkegaard said if we knew God to be real, faith in his existence would be superficial. It’s the same with love. And sex, frankly. For me, worship is to God as sex is to love.
JV: You’re in Virginia right now. How does that landscape affect your poems?
AS: Hardly at all because there’s no one around here that I love. I travel a lot and I think that influences me more than anything else. Every city looks better from an airplane window. I know that’s true, but there’s still a part of me that’s also convinced that I’ll meet the right person or the right place the next time I land somewhere else. It’s a cognitive dissonance I allow because I dislike my home so much.
JV: Who writes your poems—what part of you?
AS: The part of me that still desires people over things. I have a slight worry that I’ll stop writing if I fall in love again, but I know that’s not how it works. A relationship needs lies, adventure, conceit and so on to sustain itself. I have a bigger worry that I’ll give up on love entirely at some point, either with someone or not, and then I don’t know what I’d write about.
JV: I’ve always felt my poems come alive after they’ve been edited—as if I’m carving a poem, rather than writing it. Would you agree or disagree with this?
AS: My poems are confessional and typically true, in a certain sense of the word. So when it’s first written, it’s pretty esoteric. Editing a poem helps me make it more universal. So in that way, the poem actually might be stifled rather than fed. That’s important though, because literature needs to be compassionate in order to work. It can’t just be for yourself. That’s the biggest lie we tell new writers. You have to write for someone else.
Editor's Note: These poems originally appeared on our old site.
Andrew Squitiro’s poetry has appeared in [PANK], DIAGRAM, and The Moth. Essays and reviews can be found at The Volta, Luna Luna Magazine, and The Good Men Project. He teaches undergraduate literature in Norfolk, VA, where he also works as a substitute in the local school district. In his spare time, he enjoys flying and taking pictures.