This Morning the Small Bird Brought a Message from the Other Side
I would not call it fear
or the absence of fear
that I woke with, but worry,
this morning when I rose
up from the bed, & saw,
with clear seeing, for the first time,
that my chest was a small, red cup,
or bird in my hand, somehow
thirsty, its injury
made me panic for it
& I carried it with me
not knowing what to do
with its small speech, the way
it said your name.
I want to know what to do
with the dead things we carry.
If I were to wake
with the red thing in my chest
or hand, what would
I do? Will I?
& the bird, would it attempt,
to cross over, would it come again
from the body’s realm
of animals & claws?
Would it risk its life
again to give me the message
of your name?
Would I trust my mouth
to resuscitate the messenger, small bird,
knowing I could kill it
with my teeth?
is a stomach expanding
when there’s no food left in the house.
You scrub dishes until there is nothing left to clean,
until there is no more nail to chew down,
until you are sitting inside a whale’s mouth surrounded by the sound of water.
You contemplate the filling and refilling of the chest,
how the hand that feeds can just as easily let you go hungry,
if the child remembered to wish before he blew out the candle.
You wave your hand like an open window,
see snow in the middle of spring,
consume every almond the shade of her skin
as if there is meaning to be found.
We found her hair
clogging the drain on a Thursday night.
On Friday, we kept our eyes open in the shower
and pulled away fist fulls of black string from our scalps,
not recognizing any of it as our own.
Next Thursday you woke up in the house you grew up in.
Your mother asked you if it was suicide.
Your sister hugged you like she always does.
You left the bed unmade like you always do.
After the phone call,
you ate cookies with your best friends and cried into tea cups.
When there was no more water left in your body,
you went home and nursed your swollen eyes.
And when you felt yourself being dragged through the streets,
you smashed your fingers into the pavement
only to watch them turn to chalk,
only to cough out apologies like a line of ants,
following you home,
swarming around your prayers,
reminding you there is no rest to be found.
And when everything has shattered,
you will wish for lightning to split the truth,
you will wish the sky to peel back like tide and pull you in.
Maybe then you’ll find yourself in a room filled with answers.
my mother asked me again if I ever found out what really happened.
For the first time I realized I’m okay with not knowing.
I do not know each name of loss,
how to forgive the men who kiss without permission,
how to heal with so many sharp things in sight.
But a splinter growing into our heels, will find a home in our steps,
in the way we begin to notice the slip of space between fabric and skin,
in how we find ourselves looking less into mirrors
and more into the faces of ones we love.
“Read This” by Victoria Ford
The Excelano Project Fall 2012 Show: Mother Tongue
That’s my girl!
The last time we went grocery shopping together, I picked my way through thirteen cartons of cracked egg shells and tried to hold back tears. You assured me that someday, somewhere we would buy eggs together again, but I wasn’t ready to miss you. I thought about the night you diagnosed my fear of being broken. You captured where it hurts most and catalogued me an undiscovered species of beauty. You have a way of making me want to be opened. Yet I alternated between my two pairs of granny-panties, postponed shaving for as long as I could, and told myself that if I wore a nun-suit then you would never become another set of greasy fingerprints on my atlas.
Five days after I arrived in London, I wrote in my journal: “I want to marry him. I know I am a complete lunatic, but first, let me think about what our children will look like…” I was never a girl who believed in soul mates. When I met you I had given up on bathing regularly. I saw my body as a dish rag. There were too many stains in places I couldn’t reach. You kept the lights on. I put my hands over my stomach and held my breath. It wasn’t until later that I finally stopped sucking it in for you.
I remember the nights when I would watch you get ready for bed. You stood in front of the mirror in your boxer briefs, and sprayed on deodorant in the same pattern every time: first your underarms and then a big X across your chest. And sometimes you would refer to yourself as wolverine. It is this small moment that reminds me of how I still get nervous touching you, as if I am eight again and afraid of breaking everything I hold. I hold too many apologies to my mother and to myself. They are as useless and cumbersome as Encyclopedia Britannicas. You took volumes off my shelves and reduced them to pebbles. I watched them skip away and prayed that you would never turn to stone.
On our wedding day, my mouth will mimic the moon. The corners of your eyes will crinkle like paper fans. I will walk into them and forget how to look back. We will think of this time apart like a game of hide and go seek. I promise to never stay hidden for long if you promise to always find me.
When we finally close the distance, we will live in a city somewhere and eat way too much McDonald’s. We’ll steal hot sauce from burger joints and create the strangest sandwich combinations. We will force our friends to like Marmite and eat canned beans at least once a day. We will spend way too much time in bed and as much time as possible naked. We will fart loudly and sweat profusely and tweeze each other’s eyebrows. We will be in a love that is exactly like every romantic cliche tap dancing to christmas music.
Don’t tell me this sounds like a love poem. Don’t remind me I only ever write about love when I lose a shoe. Don’t mention how sharp my bones are and how you like to sleep with your hands behind your head. When I walked away from you at the airport, I double-knotted my shoelaces, smeared palms of salt across my eyes, and tried to wring out a smile for my sister. Lately, I have made a habit of stuffing chili powder in my tear ducts. I pretend the burning is the steam coming off your body. I keep my eyes open and dream about making love to you when I am falling asleep in class. I suck in my cheeks and feel small between my constant pacing. I sink my teeth into our memories and wait for you to bite back.