What is the Word?
It’s Thursday and
I’m supposed to have something written
And I’m supposed to be ready to share
But instead of writing
I’ve been running my fingers across the raised lymph nodes on my neck
Googling my blood work
Looking for answers in hemoglobin
And putting my hope in the Hippocratic oath
Wondering if the numbers will work themselves out
The way I hope my fingers will work
The lymph nodes back under the skin
The problem is that
The stuff that gets under our skin
Is the stuff we become known for
What I want to do is sleep forever
What I want to do is rip the pages from the books
Rip the words from the pages
Paste them up like shiplap around my bow
And let them weather storms for me
I want to sleep forever
And I want to close my eyes
I want to remember what it felt like to lie naked and face up in my cradle and
Make pictures out of clouds
Before the shapes had names
Before my voice had words
When what I uttered were infantile bursts of essential
Some untenable guttural importance
I want to sleep forever
Instead of laying awake
Lips forming the same words over and over again
The words that I hold to be self evident and yet I struggle to say out loud
My own brother
A legacy of lies and a lifetime of foiled attempts at integrity
I do not despise him
But I do want to be safe
Indigenous people in Alaska have
Hundreds of words for snow
And I collect words as a hobby
Chew on them
Form the same words over and over again
Even if I’ve never used them, I want to say them out loud
At least once
What is the word for safety?
How do we know when we are okay.
There is still something guttural about
The way a woman cries as she builds a shelter
The way her fingers bleed as she protects those she loves
The imagination of a future where she no longer
Must wade and wade through years of pretense and performance to finally burst into a depth of passion and pleasure
Take a lover, just for self
Learn to lean into the deep magic of sisterhood
Drink the milk of her own breast
And I'm full of rage for the ways my womanhood was forced on me
The ways I carried the weight and the blame
And I am full of gratitude that my body split early and youthful.
That I approach aging as a reckoning, a reminding of myself as the woman I am
Before I am already too aged
I would not wish upon any sister or daughter the way my body was taught to love
Or to secret
Or to hold
The ways I equate climax with "him"
The ways Desire appeared in my stories only and always as male.
You have never been satisfied. A lover quotes Hamilton gently.
Do not tell me what I have known, I retort.
Alphabetically, satisfaction comes before survival but only in this way.
A body that has cleaved to every second of fresh air, counted with clock hands the moments of time she had to breathe, before gasping, eyes closed, nostril pinched with dishwater fingertips, going back under and hoping to someday resurface
Freaks, these free divers. Did you know they have held their breath as much as nineteen minutes, deep underwater?
How? We wonder.
Ask any woman.
At first the holding of ones breath can be spiritual.
In a pew, in a church, in a classroom, in a closet as we hide for seeker to find
or God to smite or
assailant to uncover
The pauses between the unimaginable stretch, sometimes,
and we learn to love more the feeling of brain exploding as capillaries burst and lungs contract than we do the sound of our scream when we are discovered
Our greatest fear is when we are seen.
Scientists say the body doesn't physiologically remember pain. But what is the word for when you never escape it?
What is the word for hallowed space between your toes? The only spot no man has violated?
What is the word for unrequited anxiety. The need to break and the impossibility of doing so.
What if your life doesn't leave you room for recovery because every time you raise your hand to ask for help you are given another task, assumed another "yes" and seen as someone capable.
Someone asked me, not long ago, what effect I thought my upbringing had had on my adulthood and I quickly diminished it's severity.
"You know, so many others had it so much worse."
But I'm typing this with thick thumbs on a tiny keyboard on my phone in desperation
A missed deadline
An expectation I had on myself
When I err
When I err
When I uhhhhhh, misspell a word,
I jump at myself to fix it immediately.
I self edit better than I actually create,
leaving little lifetime achievement.
First the scrutiny.
Then the practice.
Then the performance.
In this loop I've lost many years and it’d be negligent or intentional to not attribute this to my childhood. The ways I lie in wait for the reproach. My soul wanders best in secrecy where I feel less need to submit to what is said I should do and it's an unhealthy tether to intentionally put oneself in the dark.
What is the word for when the dark is the only place that's safe?
What is the word for when the dark is unsafe?
What is the word for when you stop screaming?
What is the word for when your shelter holds strong.
What is the word for what happens when what’s under your skin