The places where Edmonia’s bones were fractured still hold violent reverberations. When it rains I massage the static hum out of each point of impact. There is nothing heavier than flesh that wishes to be on another axis, except perhaps stone she shaped. Tonight she tells me, it’s impossible to bring a lover to the small death she deserves. An orgasm is excavated, never given. She takes my face in her hands without permission. I take her waist with care not to treat her like a healing thing. My fear winnows. She is digging me out of my misery with her fugitive hands. No one has ever led me out of myself the way she does when we move as though the species depends on our pleasure. She makes a pocket of me until I cry. I’ve seen that field, the site of her breaking, in the empty parking lot I cut through to class. There is nothing left for us to forge in Oberlin, and still we remain, Edmonia a sentient rock, swallowing her own feet in want of motion. We fit on this twin sized bed only by entanglement. We survive here by the brine of our brutish blood.
From Hull (Nightboat Books, 2019). Copyright © 2019 Xandria Phillips. Used with permission of Nightboat Books, nightboat.org.
after Olivia Gatwood
I get ready for my first day as the new girl in high school
already knowing what not to wear. I dress perfectly
to stand out and disappear. I know how to put on
makeup, and I do it exactly right. My hair
looks awesome, of course! I step onto the bus,
pause by the driver, raise my arms like a superstar,
and meet the eyes of my adoring audience.
Three different beautiful girls punch
each other in the face to have me sit next to them.
I decline and the school’s most lovely, artsy boy
slides over to make room. He knows his feelings
and only goes too far
when he honestly misunderstands. He’s one of the safer ones.
I walk down the halls and no one makes fun of me.
I pass the section of lockers where her locker is, and
she is there, taking a book out of her backpack.
She’ll go running this weekend, as usual, and won’t
be followed. The man who won’t be following
her has already followed half a dozen women
to rape and kill and leave in the woods. But she won’t be
followed. She’ll survive her fate this time, and come back
to school on Monday, avoid the mean girls in the bathroom.
She’ll pick on the new girl, call her a virgin of all things.
She’ll limp her way through math, cheat a bit in science,
do pretty good in history and English. She’ll graduate,
and go to the state school on a track scholarship. She’ll
have two girls and keep them safe. She’ll almost forget
about this other ending: her in the woods near her house,
staring at the ground beneath her, wondering why.
Copyright © 2020 by Melanie Figg. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 12, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.