For 6 months last year
I stopped wearing a bra.
After 11 years of wearing a bra almost every single day,
I starting pulling my shirts and dresses over a completely bare upper half:
No lifting, uncomfortable straps.
For 6 months
I did this.
I was in a state of perpetual stress, and wanted to test a theory:
That wildness was a quality
that I could inject into a personality
that was otherwise over-analytic and list-obsessed.
My spirit was searching.
Vibrations of your voice were
felt from my gestation, creating
the first song between us.
The smile in your eyes greets me,
as I lay on your chest and inhaled your
scent an echo of our first note.
You share stories of relatives known only
through memories. At the age of three,
you got into some moonshine and ran
through the yard, stick in hand
and mind in flight.
My sister's beauty lies in a reserved comfort,
and no one in my family stands for her humour,
the one place where she encourages no sibling rivalry,
as the chunk of us bear the mark of a god on our faces;
We are cacti, imprisoning joy in our ragged cheeks,
and never the angels of good cheer to a dreary family.
My sister never begins each day without pulling strings,
with which she creates sunrise within our hearts;
Even while disaster steadily knocks on our doors,
She reels out peals and rolls of raucous laughter
and sunset hides in the forest of its birth.
And you watch her, keenly
Going from one to another
Seeking for advice on how to navigate the cold and unwelcoming waters ahead of her
Others had gone and found their different ways to the other side
Through these same waters
But she was still dithering
Unsure and unwilling to take the dive
Watching others before and behind her, go on, before her
Through the cold, unwelcoming waters
Trigger Warning: death and blood
Stephanie sat cross-legged in the standing shower aboard the VIKENGRASS. The water
sprinkled over her body as she kept her eyes closed, trying to meditate and alleviate the pain that
came on this day every year. It was the anniversary of the accident that took the lives of both of
her parents, having her leg and finger amputated, along with permanently deafening her. All
because their self-driving car stopped working and drifted into oncoming traffic.
She opened her eyes to be met with darkness, alarming her. The lights came back on in a
moment, and the room shook. Stephanie quickly stood up and turned off the water, jumping out
of the shower and drying herself off. She grabbed her clothes and slipped them on, returning to
her living quarters as soon as she could.
The VIKENGRASS shuttered and groaned as explosions rocked the inner hull. The lights
in the hallway dimmed, flickering subsequently with the detonations. The crew scrambled from
their living quarters as sirens blared overhead, red lights flashing along the tops of the black
walls. It was against protocol to be woken this way, as a member aboard the bridge was
designated to wake them, preparing the entire crew to deal with the emergency.
They tell me to be at peace.
They don’t notice that I am in pieces.
Regardless of the blood that drips from my lips.
Regardless of the bruises that shackle my wrists.
They wrestle control from bloodied fingers,
and crack my knees against the floor.
They wish to strip me of my strength,
and trap me in my voice.
They wish for me to cease,
gagging me with dirtied money.
They think it will stop me,
stuffed mouth unable to speak.
Her shoes were made in the year 1977. They belonged to her grandmother when she was
a young woman. They were wingtip derby dress shoes in a size 8-and-a-half with a very slight
heel. She’d been granted permission to wear them to work after filing a special request with her
employer. She’d made a very thorough case for the shoes. They were in beautiful shape,
closed-toed, and sturdy. They’d made her bring them in to prove that she could sprint down the
hallway in them. The shoes were made from alligator skin, her favorite animal, said to still roam
free in the half-drowned Atlantis that remained of the Southeastern American wilds, where her
extended family had once lived, just outside of Miami – what the shoes lacked in utility, they
made up for in history.
Tip-tack-tip-tack, the shoes used to go, smacking tiles as she walked back and forth
across her grandad’s deck like America’s Next Top Model. Now they made almost no sound at all,
just a faint thup-thup-thup. Principal Ndongo’s allowance of the shoes hinged on the condition
that they be appropriately dampened – several spaces in the facility still had hard, lacquered
floor, namely the cafeteria and gym areas. She paced around the empty facility, poking her head
into all the rooms that would be, any time now, full of human beings. During her extensive
training, she’d participated in several full-occupancy armed safety drills, but those always struck
her as falsely urgent, bordering on ridiculous. They were meant to further complicate an already
fabricated scenario, like trying to catch someone off-guard while playing Simon Says. Simon
Says get the fuck down, now, now, now.
I find redemption in the contours of your back
Weighing heavy on the breadth of your shoulders
A map to vengeance, peace, freedom
written in the notches of your spine
Each freckle I come across
a landmark, a victory
I find hope in your hands
Sprinkled throughout the callouses
A warm cradle for actions, consequences, victory
Found in the cup of your palms
Each finger slots into mine
A safety net, a promise
Pass the salt. Say grace at the dinner table. Say this could be something.
We eat quietly by the window under sunbeams, listening to the music of a
songbird’s serenade. I can’t remember the last time we had a meal like this, together
and yet still so alone. If you could speak to me for the first time, what would you
Do you want to light the candles? I ask, and you shake your head. They’re just
there for decoration. Of course they are.
The food is stale. Still, I eat because you have made it. This cooking, though
unappetizing, is one of the purest forms of love. I will not turn it into one of shame.
When we finish, I notice the chipped edge of your plate. Even in this silence
we share it screams, I am here. I am lived in. A smile spreads across my lips, thin and
wry. Today has been good to us.
Neither do I belong to those fetters of fragility
furled around my feet, nor do I belong
to the shallowly strength depicted
by utter superficiality;
I am the daughter of clay,
and of callosity,
crafted with the competence
of being fragile and fortitudinous
all at once.