Winner of the 2015 SLS-Disquiet Arkadii Dragomoshchenko Poetry Prize for Innovative Poetry
Again I chew the cud before I waste beneath myself.
What was it like to look him in the eye. Ask. What was it like.
Memory enjoys the sacrum, running its black tongues along
stretching tissues. At 6. At 13. At 13, 14. Before melodrama
cancels out the myth of trauma, I bend at the hip, plea for
black eyes, animal eyes, black eyes. In gym my carriage
folds over, bones muscle through skin, a girl tosses
a penny toward me and calls me to fetch. My nickname
is Penny because I picked up coins once in my Jewgirlskin //
because a boy forced his way into my mouth and pulled out
language. Animal language. Slut language. I walk the halls,
hysteria pushes out my body an ecstatic gel. How am I
supposed to auto bio graph the skins of dead identifiers.
Infusoria. Delirious chandeliers of rot. In memory I lift
the deadarms of grief, I bite down on aluminum sheaths,
Mina Loy draws my worm portrait, her hairs fall toward me.
My carriage spills waste. Brown lachrymose blood along crotchlines.
My carriage spills waste. Metabolized yellow. Poor animal
zodiacs. Indecent incidents cradle me to sleep, cold liquids
warm quick against my hundred cunts. My body has a geography
charted to which I am always so loyal. I honor how it goes on
without me, secretes metabolized sky from crown to crotch.
Death demands we remember erasure, prebirth cloth out of which
we can’t pull language. My carriage spills waste. I remember.
The way oceans receive oceans my carriage spills.
Anne Boyer says on her blog there is no “listening”
to one’s body, which in all circumstances is providing
the wrong information. The doctors plan to cut
my mother’s throat open to remove harmful nodules,
my mother who grew up wanting a penis and no
uncles, no 60s-era rape tactics, no loss of her first born.
How will disease be for her how will disease be for me.
I am more lonely than I’ve been since a man held me down
as if to drown me in the lake of his needs, empty pizzaboxes
stacked as though to collect that flattening residue.
Readers balk at the violence of such active sub-pred phrases
when they extend out the body not like verbs but skin
over skin, skin over organs, skin over overactive nodes.
I didn’t want to be a girl like this. The woman-body
glides over my sleeping and drips a syrup in my ear.
My mind is precious. It dreams of removal, as all
precious things wish for somatic omission. Poor fishbones
skull of a mind. My carriage empties. I fear hormones,
how they’ll cut me open to see my fault lines, hypnotize
the kraken of the woman-body gliding me awake.
Yesterday I searched my shoes and remembered.
I remembered a boyfriend who pushed my cheek onto pillows
and told me he removed my clothes better than I could
dress myself. I could dress myself. Out the window, snow.
The abuse of men, they voice their hate of me now,
collecting accounts of ﬁbril damage. They say how could you
say I did this. My mom closes my book to banish
her opening throat. When will indifference come,
says Berryman at his father’s tomb. My carriage fills.
It means to draft a letter to all of them, a wet damp scrawl.
Katie L hooked her finger inside her cheek
to describe what it felt like to sleep each night
sick from every germ, sick again from the spread.
We were best friends, our mouths linked our hurt
in the rows of teeth we bit with to bite through.
The body draws some funny weapons. Someone
took her in a van, taped her weapon shut, left her
on the grass one block away hours later. They
called her fine, because that’s how we monetize
damage, a transaction of skin against survived skin.
They dropped a coin in her palm, its warm nickel
blooded her with purpose so she never spoke again.
Was the van a white van, they would push as she stared.
Her stare was a white van or it was not. They abandoned
the house and never returned. No address. No answer
to the white vans chewing through wilderness.
A vacuum filled the acreage. A void ate the house. Sylvan weeds
choked through the dirt. Weeds as high as a house.
Everyone called what happened a damn shame but
whose damn shame did they mean. A damn shame is
when every yellow all absorbs into the body and
no one speaks of this as anything but accident.
A damn shame is when they describe Katie L as adorable
and blonde. Jaundice halos above her bedpost night after
night. Simone Weil says A hurtful act is the trans-
ference to others of the degradation which we bear
in ourselves, but what about the men who bear the world
with their heads on sticks to better prowl.
I am learning what forgiveness means by means
of looping thread through the bobbed heads of stickmen—
No, I am learning what forgiveness means by means
of pressing my ear to the bowls of their limbs
and hearing the studious bake of parts in a system of parts.
I am learning what forgiveness means by means
of destroying the source. I take beauty into a landscape
and split it open to chew its flora. An act of transference.
I rake my spit over a hole to make it mine. How beautiful
it is that emptiness doesn’t truly exist on the planet. Holes
are essayic, a devotion to drills, where we toss our prodigious girls.
The white van extends its limbs to taunt in the game of life and limb.
Katie L was a hole that entered the white van. The men choked
on its noxious gape until little holes blinked through their skin.
They feared her vacuum. They emptied themselves of the vacuum
by placing her in the gentle grass. They never even touched her.
What we imagine happened did not happen. This is how events
continue to happen.
Routines of devotion are lonely like this, as when my own smell
calls back a man who blamed me for possessing odor in his bed.
Do I remember when he pushed my face into his sheets and demanded
I smell what I produced. I do not. I pushed a disc over memory
so I could breathe freely over it.
What are we to do when our avatars form imaginary lines
across streets and meadows to lure us back to place.
What do we even mean when we call a thing a meadow.
A meadow plucks petals from a flower.
Dead girl. Not a dead girl. Dead girl. Not dead. Dead.
Film is an endless continuation, a way of reframing reframes of a scene
that in order to happen must first happen. I think this is what is meant
by memory. I thirst in the meridian before and after kingdom.
Kingdom is a white van. All the presidents spill from the opening door
when they see us walking. I dream of my hips’ sway back and forth
the terrible electricity in being seen. I wake up to the terrible electricity
in being seen.
When I cup my palms I peer inside the hole they make. Temporary.
Harmless. I push a fist through bread to demonstrate my force. See how I
knuckle my way into the first phase of power. Power is a hole
suitably buried. A father’s flabby throat. I dream inside this relapse
A hole is made of every ugly dead girl. Wrap a sewer around the neck
of the bored and you’d only get boredom. That’s the thing
about emptiness: it graphs itself to believers, the oneliness
of form and swallowed eros. I don’t know Katie L anymore
but her name swells a pillbox hat over my joints.
My dad texts me and asks me to name all the men in my book of men.
I drop my phone into a lake in answer. I approach all questions with access
to a nearby hole. Do you get it, I say inside Katie’s mouth,
I compose letters of forgiveness only after a drill sounds.
Natalie Eilbert is the author of the debut collection Swan Feast, published this year by Coconut Books. She is also the author of two chapbooks, Conversation with the Stone Wife (Bloof Books, 2014) and And I Shall Again Be Virtuous. (Big Lucks Books, 2014). Her poems and essays have been published or are forthcoming from The Kenyon Review, The Offing, Tin House, Guernica, West Branch, and elsewhere. She is the founding editor of The Atlas Review.