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“Her very look, even, will dim the brightness of mirrors, blunt the edge of steel, and take away the polish from ivory. A swarm of bees, if looked upon by her, will die immediately.”
— Pliny the Elder, “Remarkable Circumstances Connected with the Menstrual Discharge”
Yes, I did hold a plague in my pupils. Yes, I did lift up my dress and walk through fields to kill each beetle and pest. The last landscape designated protected was the swamp. The marsh and its salt, weedy tufts of grass stuck up above the flood. No, the woman’s body men marked in the sky didn’t lead me anywhere, but the smell of metal led me around like a dog. I was hungry and didn’t know the difference between touch and tooth. Didn’t know how to look at a thing and not kill. The women who couple on Rodin’s Gates of Hell are called The Damned Women, and the dam of my body breaks open, flooding the marsh with murky bile. I never did believe in the kind of before-and-after that would make the afterlife a compelling narrative. My globe of blood swum up in a throat. A sky too big to dream up or hold all at once, a thick book full of tiny, teeming type.
Under the threat of chaos I gleam like a single, wet seed. If the heart could throb itself up or threaten to disinter itself. If each person with a job insists you will find a job. I wanted to bury myself between some thighs and not come up for air till I was a drowned thing brimming with salt. A rat at the edge of animal lovability. I could be that fat on cast-off grease, paper plates gnawed for each molecule of oil. I sewed a triangle between my thighs and called it liberation. I tore my toenail till it bled and didn’t call it becoming a barge that dredges up sickness. I believed in the weedy possibilities of survival and so did not allow myself to be dazzled by the drooping heads of peonies, but at night I dreamed of gold glitter and lipstick so red it was an emergency.
Speech did blow me back to my fertile edges. Dandelions blossom up everywhere, the implied connective of seeds to roots to stems. A green grass field dotted with yellow and men. Yes, it is another day and yes, time is a master illusion meant to flatten, meant to parcel into bits of flesh and bone. I wore my manhood like a suit of armor and swung around heavy as a club. I did know the difference once between a weed and a plant but watched the taxonomies dissolve in a silky glow. I wasn’t white, but translucent, skin pink with blood and rivered with blue. This was the whitest part of me: where whiteness thinks itself as absence, translucent as nothing to see or know.
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