by Carlina Duan

— and remember the time I stood at the intersection
carrying my black suit of hair and the woman stopped in
her shiny car, rolled down the window to scream something
vulgar something clanking inside her mouth a word a system
of grammar flipped to             fury red ripe railing at me?

                 for what? my body?               my attention?

Anger is often in response to a boundary crossed…

what was that boundary? where were my legs? why did
I stand there, without a word, holding the straw in my ice
cubed drink as the liquid turned warm & illegible between
                 these jaws? slosh,


                 the woman stopped in her shiny car.
                 the woman stopped to scream  “_______ !”

                                                               “_________ ! You __________________!”

                                                               in her shiny car

                                                               at me.

                 Who is the subject of this sentence? Who is the object? What is the verb?

                 Standard English Grammar dictates… the proper tense.
                                                                        do I care about the proper?

she spat at me. she said a bad word. a string of words demarcating

my body (hit by grammar, hit by a field of letters, hid behind a lump in my throat while my body remained my body, my lungs pulled up
the hot July air, my hair remained parted to the side as I clasped
the straw as I watched the tips of my feet)
a body to be screamed
at by a stranger.                      July, North American. a street.

                 Which tense would you like to use to describe the incident above?

                 (the past)    the future.

                 I will eat leaves and pour vinaigrette
                 slow & skinny. I will feed the low opal of my mouth. in times of
                 distress, I will turn on the stove. garlic will be fried in a river
                 of yellow oil. I will eat my letters, crunchy and fat. angry
                 and swollen, soft and slathered in old fashioned oats, I will
                 try to pull up the words:

                                    Hit me she did. Hurt me I am.
                                    Language she did.

                                    The word __________________ I am.

                                                                                         am not.

                                                                        on a North American street, on a hot
                                                                        July day, a woman stopped her car
                                                                        where I waited at an intersection to
                                                                        tell me I was a __________________ .

                                                                        on a North American street, on a hot
                                                                        July day, a woman stopped her car
                                                                        where I waited at an intersection
                                                                        to scream the word __________________ !

                                    and later, I wilted leaves in a hot pan.
                                    and later, I fed the story back 
                                    to my mouth. and later, the syntax 
                                    was rewound in a reel, set aside, 
                                    and I composed a new body 
                                    of roman letters out
                                    my body— I pulled up words
                                    from their waggling roots
                                    and raised them to touch
                                    the edges of a face, a page,
                                    to cure and hold and praise
                                    and wriggle and snap and sister
                                    and (alive!) amen
                                    and (alive!) amen

                                    then defy and defy and           talk back.

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