POEM OF THE WEEK: ALESSANDRA LYNCH
It took seconds for him
to push me down then he was done—
I was supine. Perpendicular, the tree. That night
we made a kind of staggering diagram in the parking lot.
How had he risen from me? Jerked out, rolled
Crude knuckles scuffed by fatigue and dust, the roots
of the tree inches from my face. Had he gripped
my wrist, pressed a knife at my neck?
For decades I’ve walked in a daze.
through insect-amputees who are not dead
but don’t have the gut or grip to shield their good
remaining legs. They’re scuttle-dry and yellow-gray
as a storm-gripped sky.
For decades I’ve walked
in a daze through this day’s recitations.
Low crawl of red through the leaves
I pulled myself up. Parallel, the tree. That night
we made a kind of shuddering frame for the air.
How had he gotten me down? Had he seized
my arm or waist….I don’t remember the least.
Rape felt stripped. And spare. Brute.
The daughters march with their blindfolds on,
their dresses stiff-whipping around their bare ankles,
straight into the Arctic.
They make a voiceless parade,
bleached as drift-sticks.
They move with the inevitability
of dreams. I am someone’s daughter among them.
Once upon in a parking lot…I said
repeatedly…then my voice faltered, fell off, my eyes distracted
by wind insistently pulling the curtains
apart and the dead flower in its glass of water.
The girl it happened to crawled out
of my body
straight into the grass that bordered the lot
where she lay face-up, a cloth
doll termites drilled into, leaving tiny holes
in her yellow cheek, the two heaps of her eyes,
her flopping elbows, and where
was, licked by leaves and wet dark.
You’ll find me there too –I am sweeping
up seed-husks and twigs to clear a circle around her.
I keep a respectable distance
while admiring her silence and how substantial
she looks, how weightless she is.
There is something beautiful about her even as she
perforates, eaten by mites and rot, something coolly autonomous
as though she never belonged to the body.
Look again and the doll isn’t a doll at all
but a lump in the grass, doubled-over, small, hard-eyed as bone.
No assailant in view.
In the aftermath I was a crude
figure: 2 stick-arms 2 stick-legs streak
of blood blurry crotch no eyes
legs re-positioned hair maladjusted
head propped I was his prop or was I
faint as starlight at the edge of dawn faint
as a fawn’s flank spattered with so much universe
Shame is my orientation.
See the straight pink pines by the wildflower field, the black
eyes edged by petals staring through me? And the panic
of wild turkeys wherever I loom.
There are mosses and twigs and camouflage rods in the forest,
and leaves in the dusty trees to hide behind.
But I awaken again, too clear, in that
memory….what I didn’t do, what was done. The
cock-limp and stutter and smear—.
who taught me Shame? Why did I take it
Why can’t I inch forth?
Will I ever stop sinking?
How is it I always feel wrong?
If I could slip you off—quick as cornsilk….
If you hadn’t become my skin, Shame
If you hadn’t become my shame, Skin
the dream-bee burst through an orange bloom
dream-bee burst through a bloomy world
dream-bee burst a blurry sea
burst me from the dream
the stranger heaved his weight on me
the stranger bore a hole in me
the stranger tore the me from me
leaden as the bullets
I keep lining on my sill
I am heavy and multiple
When x skin x blood when
x blood x
gash x gash x him
can’t find the body that belongs to my voice
or my voice that belongs to the harm
the things you spat out:
glass bits and sour mash
and you-were -fucked-to-a-blank-it-wasn’t-your-doing
Thinking in my thinking I’m making it alive flinching from my bloated white shadow the lamp in the window is a man’s hat the man waits in the narrows to get me think it through hasn’t he already gotten me or this time I want to really feel it know it is me being pushed down close to those exposed roots it is me think myself into staying embodied I don’t want to shudder apart like ash between december trees or drift up like mindsmoke want to own up to my body I want to know it is my body pressed into the cold ground by a stranger who had no second thought no first or did he think I was a shimmer a hole an outlet an animal was I his father or mother or did he see I had my own shape shuddering as bodies do when they are sick with a virus I had a name he didn’t ask for oh now I’m thinking again he called me “Stephanie” as though I would answer to that, as though I was in his movie as though we’d done things together—he wasn’t an animal after all he was human and he wasn’t and I was a thread so wavery so frayed nothing followed….
you have to be a god to get away with it
and then the women always turning
into something else: bull-flower, frog, that laurel tree she asked to be
I don’t need a god to tell me to turn into a fox
I’m expert at the swift-lope-through-scarred-hills.
That girl who is me now? She’s split apart.
Like a starfish. Like mercury. You can find her alive
in a small house by a dried-up sea. For decades she’s been hoarding
beach-plums and stones….
Bring her bread, but no flowers– flowers signify
something alive, something that thrives even in sand.
She smells of salt and blood. She won’t ever
meet your eyes. Her skin is dust-dry.
If you pour water straight from the pitcher
down her throat, she won’t flinch or grab
a rag when it splashes to the floor. She’ll sit
slack in her straightbacked chair.
Do not touch her hands—she will tighten
her grip till you both turn white and cold, your lips
the greenish purple of unripe plums.
Don’t offer her a scarf—she’ll knot it
around your neck, sand-flies will swarm
from the linoleum, thicken around your shoulders,
and she’ll look straight through you as though you are the sea—
she’ll begin to tell her story, the one with no beginning or ending.
She’ll recite it by heart—
Tracing it back can be helpful, the doctor said Eons ago
this paper was stripped
from some tree in a boggy forest,
then wrenched through machines
“the degree to which I was…”
falters in my throat.
Now the package I ordered
arrives and I am circling and eye-ing it
as though it’s critical—every surprise suspect– but there’s nothing
beating inside this brown parcel and its
triply-knotted strings. Not meant
to be opened.
Even things with the least resemblance
to my assailant make me start—the gleaming nail in the door
is his unseeing eye fixed on me
Think it through she said bring the moment back to present-thought
The flowers clinging
to the electricutionary fence around a jailyard
have mustard breath. Now they’ve vanished. I don’t
remember his breath, or any sounds from his throat
as he thrust —did he really exist…? I am afraid
to open. Afraid he hurt someone else,
I not having reported.
This package is nothing I want. A case
within an encasement, what it always is.
You have to re-train your brain she said
The brown paper around it fluttering and
drying and fluttering, the package unopened,
trapped in its unruly twine.
The letters a blur I’m too tired to decipher.
Whatever I ordered is strapped in, unheaving, a weight
in this room.
Hold it to the minute, don’t cut it open, don’t fling
the wrapping about, hold it to the minute….
Re-write the narrative she said
Alessandra Lynch is the author of Sails the Wind Left Behind, It was a terrible cloud at twilight, and Daylily Called It a Dangerous Moment. Her work has appeared in the American Poetry Review, Antioch Review, The Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, Ploughshares. The Virginia Quarterly Review, and other journals. She teaches in the undergraduate and MFA programs at Butler University.