us girls

us  girls   amidst  girls   wield  the   weaving  material   scattered  kaleidoscopic.  This
                                     recognition  beyond   sight,  the  apparatus  of  vision pressed up
                                     against glass. Gender discontinuum, flesh of collected invention
                                     obliged to my own social contract.

                                     Tooth against tooth, braced into breaking.  This one dream I do
                                     not  write  down,  its  viscera  remains.  It  arrives  again  no  less
                                     familiar;  toolless  defanging,  making  room   in  the  mouth  for
                                     gumming.   Twin   mirror   averse  syncing   into  study  spins  of
                                     Juturna.     The     bloodied    canines     in    my    palm    do   not
                                     render   me  powerless:   now   there’s  a   new   way   to   whistle.


Copyright © 2023 by S*an D. Henry-Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 12, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

About this Poem

“At this time, in a shared answerless, my life and writing, I drench in uncertainty. When I can, I trust the constant as process (even though the pace at which I move and the pace at which I am forced to move are at odds). All these dreams of teeth, fountains, reflecting pools . . .  All I know is the attempt. In the mirror, I make an audience, and an audience finds me. The mirror, the place of rehearsal. ‘us girls’ is an attempt at self-portraiture, which is an attempt to know, and a constant site of improvisation, the rehearsal of self-image made practice eternal, keeping time with the shadow. Embodied Sacred and Sisters of the Choir. An attempt at a chord. Semitones grate between harmony. I show them quietly and say, ‘That isn’t me,’ but point again to the troubled water, the sap-drunk bees, the ecstatic shadow, and exclaim—‘But this one! That is who I am!’ So as to reconcile a questioning image, my slow journey to who I know, I offer this poem. The photograph, what it can speak to, but cannot tell, which is to say Wind, which is to say Sacred. And to see in it! Not consumed, not captured. How to be seen: witnessed in the self-possession I invite you to and hope to find an invitation to punctum.”
S*an D. Henry-Smith