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Audio by curio.io
How the Skin Bruises If You Lie There Long Enough
Can’t submerge this dirigible
below the floor itself, cold wood
cheek-pressed and so hard,
hard like anything else you
might have wished for, new reality
manifesting blows as cold, hard
sunlit expanse. It’s like the time
they said they’d find you culpable
for someone else’s memory,
metamorphosed from wheat grain
to sharp-beaked chicken, from
Gwyddain to Cerridwen and her
wrath, from self defense to
all out war in the crescent moons
bleeding from the forehead and
perfectly matched to you own
little claws. Said you’d do time,
not him, and so you did,
two more years worth of maybe
and the occasional sunrise.
And then sunsets like the atlas
said they’d come, finding empties,
knowing now so well that word
empties, mapping a coastline
fogged up, ’roid ragey, lot
in my life as I had chosen it.
I check my nails for ridges,
my toes for thickening, all the signs
of a good life gone scarce
with worry, or new business,
those who keep me up at night
and in demand. Everything about me
brittle. I thought rage at least
sustained itself if not the body.
My finger still aches when it rains
from bent back, from slammed
on the edge of someone else’s
railing, from don’t you ever
do that again, from you want this,
you’re asking me to do this
every time. Where are the rats
for my minefield, where do I end up
in collapse? What ditch calls my name,
who will make me just a body, again,
what will I say the next time, to beg
for the blows, what will I bruise
to be bruised, how many years
will I have to these small joys,
the way the muscles expand
with repetition, the rush of my lungs
as I ask it, and strength of my limbs.
And this domain; gilded, burnished, mine.
So far I’ve lost sleep, but not
children. So far I’ve lost
tongues, but not air. Bought
my voice in the institutions,
so far off-rez I must be
an apple. I’ve left this country
a turtle, have come back
red and barbed. Raised
volume in all the wrong
rooms, made a bad reputation
with all my sinew. I stare
at those coffee mugs
in the china hutch, their
Southern patterns, Ute
black and white lines
painted and fired
and not Oneida, but
here, and I, here, and not also
inside cupboards. Beads
all over the closet. Practice
my yoyanlatí, only true
if I, too, can manifest.
I leave the house an apple.
I come home a harpy. The zoom
no longer cropped on my
camera’s lens, but reframed,
pulled back as bad acid,
the world’s horizon sucked
into vanishing, and we see you,
all high-rises and the occasional
generous park, sweet-talk
the ocean into terra-form.
Of course the island’s purchase
would not contain destiny.
You build upon it, glass
and curved steel, nightlife,
financial district, cab stations
for the hurried. Skywoman
is not here, the muskrats
also buried. Even the waves
quicken, and someday boil.
Kenzie Allen is a descendant of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. She holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, is managing editor of the Anthropoid collective, and currently lives in Norway.
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