When my therapist says trauma I start; like my belly too bloated to button my jeans; crisp photos of an ex and her tufty newborn; remembering how she moved into my garage without really asking, just her CRV and her big dog and a shed full of shreds from her 4 intercity moves the past year, stuff she stole from her manic abuser sorry I know it’s not my story to tell you but today I can’t get her curls her politics her sheets out of my head, glossy with becoming a new identity: mother
To get to her house creating mountain, 25 minutes up the coiled road where everybody died driving drunk, sedans stacked dominos above the sheer backyard, when the neighbors tried to kill her dogs for the recklessness they learned from her, Libra-bronze, screen porch where I found boys’ hands wound into each other
more than once
I couldn’t answer my phone, knowing what lay sobbing at the other end, 3am after too many IPAs and no ride home, after dancing deteriorates to clambering what is left
It wasn’t my rape but it hurt much worse
knowing what I couldn’t do for her, my body’s familiar ache a grieving for how I ruined us right then we both knew I was tectonic and pulling apart too slow for anyone to hear my groan, the slow brim of knowledge that I, too, survived
and why if for this: to abandon, to attempt closeness and escape when someone needs me most
Remind me again why I am worth the space my expanding body demands: trail of broken things behind me because I am always hungry for more and think that I deserve it because I don’t know I’m smart and work hard but I am endlessly selfish and unhappy I will ruin you and not mean it but here I am doing it again
I am learning to see through my sense of touch; I imagine my eye is the point of the pencil and as my eye moves along the contour of you, I move the tip of my drawing pencil
I proceed carefully and concentrate and focus and draw and I feel the contours of your form, what color you’d want to be, how you hold the cat like an angel, like a figure model echoing the improvisational outline, the pressure of choosing sage or palo santo, stay or go.
When I beg for an answer, it is not a yes a crave but rather your clear vision, the way the future unfurls from you like a robe, crystalline green and crushed plush, the promise of knowing that I can leave an empty mug on your dresser without reprisal, without hint of OK, of stealing lighters from the house altar to Audre Lorde on her birthday, how gender is a spectrum unanswerable, how a maybe is not a yes or a no.
Change my name; call me forgetting, motel off I-40, poured scarlet;
retain my body as your altar, how you fill my lap with water over time, how more denim jackets means more totem, more blessings, the scrolls you tape to living room walls treatises for having, for caring;
Indent me to the gnoming horizon, letting tote bags spill with fruit, opened jar of chalk, hand-tacked delta or slowdance, trunk stuff, wounds authored by poor people but not forgotten by us.
Grief is a landscape where shelter is hard to find so embraced, so pleased so warm and edged with comfort, my contour of you hung up
Jesse Rice-Evans is a Southern poet and rhetorician. She is a doctoral student in the English program at the CUNY Graduate Center and the author of several chapbooks, including NOON (dancing girl press, 2018) and HONOR // SHAME (Gap Riot Press, forthcoming). Read her nonfiction and poetry in Heavy Feather Review, Monstering, Entropy, Bad Pony, and The Wanderer, among others. She teaches queer texts and composition at the City College of New York.