I tell you you do not / know me if you think I will not / kill you. —Sharon Olds “The Promise”
You think it begins on the jammer line, when the whistle blows, when we’re all hips and toe stops on the track. I tell you it begins in the kitchen, standing over a pot of water-- which will indeed boil while you watch—ready to dangle a mouth guard from a teaspoon until the rubber is soft and ready to cup your teeth. It begins with eight wheels and a hardwood floor. Impatience. Imbalance. With bruised knees and rink rash, a bag of ball bearings, blood on the track. We all confuse violence with affection from time to time, don’t we? Here, the harder I hit, the more they love me. After the whistle, we are a beast with many backs. Don’t call it chaos. We are only reckless in our naming.
Stella Teaches Me the Body
because we’ve all been loved & demolished –Jan Beatty, “Shower w/notebook”
I have no interest in a body free from scars.
I want to know where you’ve been cut, where you first learned the taste of fire.
Once, I wanted tenderness/a boy who would touch my face as if it were made of glass.
I will not break. My body was made to stretch.
I keep track of bruises in a spiral notebook. #217: knees against cement #329: I swear, he didn’t mean to…
Good morning? I am black and blue. This is my body saying to me: no more. Men are just flesh. They whisper my name so no one knows they need me.
Forget propriety. I am not a vault. What I take in I do not keep. Wear a hat/ tap shoes/boxing gloves. Use a condom.
I used to be afraid to say cunt, to say touch me here. I used to be afraid to say no.
The first man I loved taught me to use my body for revenge. He never used his fists, but if you met him, you wouldn’t believe me. When I broke my nose on Christmas eve kissing an icy patch of concrete, my mother wanted to call the cops. He kept me hungry/afraid but treated my body like a gift he was forever unwrapping.
Once, I loved a man who couldn’t see me unless I crawled into his lap. Careless/reckless a man with hands made for prayer and demolition. I begged him to notice. I left my front door open so he could find me/enter/ where he wanted. When he was a child his father hung himself. When he was a child he learned how to leave people wanting.
I used to want a man who could make me feel small, lift me like a gun.
It’s a dead battery night on the interstate, a black ice morning. You mumble at the doorjamb of sleep, telling secrets. I’d say good-night and start walking home-- if I knew where that was. Instead, I stand on the back porch, finger licked and aiming skyward, and listen for the wind to point the way.
-- Sara Tracey is a poet and teacher in Chicago, Illinois. She is the author of Some Kind of Shelter (forthcoming from Misty Publications), and Flood Year (dancing girl press, 2009). Her work has recently appeared in Vinyl, The Collagist, Harpur Palate and Passages North. She is a regular performer in The Chicago Poetry Bordello and a teaching artist in The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative.