"Lies are soothing if chanted like prayer.
Once, a healer told me to live for myself.
The healer demanded life from me,
but dying was easier once I knew how.
Dying was easier once I learned how
the opposite of breathing was cement."
The Opposite of Breathing is Cement: Poetry and Prose is an ode to healing by exposing long held wounds to the light in hopes that something fruitful is created. Icess Fernandez Rojas' debut poetry collection is a breathless journey between identity, love, and mental illness where in dark corners of the mind exists a brave flicker from a candle. That light is more than hope, it's the start of something new. "Don’t be labeled / as the family crazy. / Hesitate to accept the stigmas but / manage it as a complex phenomenon." Through these poems, bruises, lacerations, and grief are laid bare in unapologetic language. However from these words also comes joy from the most surprising places, happiness among the ruins of despair, and images of something better always promised around the next corner.
Icess Fernandez Rojas is a Houston-based educator, writer, podcaster, and former journalist. She is a graduate of Goddard College's MFA program.
Her work has been internationally published in Queen Mobs Lit Journal, Poetry 24, PANK Magazine, Rabble Lit, Minerva Rising Literary Journal, and the Feminine Collective's anthology Notes from Humanity. Her Houston-based story, “Happy Hunting”, was published in the Houston Noir anthology.
Her nonfiction/memoir work has appeared in Dear Hope, NBCNews.com, HuffPost and the Guardian. She is a recipient of the Owl of Minerva Award, a VONA/Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation alum, a Dos Brujas Workshop alum, a Kimbilio Fellow, and a Yale Writers’ Workshop member. She's finishing her memoir, Problematic. The Opposite of Breathing is Cement is her first poetry collection.
Fernandez is an assistant professor of English at Lone Star College near Houston, Texas. Follow her on Twitter: @Icess and at her website: http://icessfernandez.com.
"Between the crosses of identities—Black, Latina, woman, mental health, a child of immigrants living in the South— Fernandez Rojas paints the reality of existence with ever unraveling truth. She does not stutter nor hesitate. This whole collection wants to have a whole conversation with you, wants to see about you, wants to tell you about all the real things in the world. This book wants to sing to you, tell you all the stories..."
Texas Poet Laureate 2022-2023, Lupe Mendez