sour heat of the taxicab my thighs stuck by sweat to the leather in the aperture of the sunless hours i sit scarved in the quiet that i think will protect me i’ve spent days inside & untouched by human noise & i forget the lesson in the old hurts that mark my kneaded body & sometimes i do not even register the hands that steer the vehicle the man from which they protrude until his eyes in the mirror hook the light & i see his want thrusting into the backseat a leer scraping like a fingernail along my skin dumb prey shut in the cage with its wolf while his looking catalogs my edible parts gleaming in stripes by the streetlights & hushed in brief sanctuary by the dark & the silence i’ve gathered will throb when he asks is this where you live & i work to keep my face unchanged & maybe sometime in the dimming past i was still unmarked my girlhood body unoccupied by warning its curiosity still free to extend to a strange or recognized hand engineering an unfamiliar ache before my shame became my native tongue became the sovereign of my flesh i had my milkteeth smiled green as a seedling in photographs in their silence i was pure & cloistered & i did not yet need to take inventory for my body to feel like mine the driver’s eyes displace me & leave behind a list of ways i can be hurt of all the places i am a door its use unaltered by my yes or no outside the streetlights change to a bridge’s trusses & i say nothing the car points into a borough not my own while i watch the distance swell between my watching & the slab of girl fastened to the backseat useless little carcass so faraway in her smallness & already going missing already bored by pain & sometimes even those whose touch i choose who mean me only tenderness will with their smell or voice or a trick of the light or the faintest touch of an index finger trip the latch that lets me out to the space above my peeled & emptied rind when i return i tell this to my lover who braids himself to me & makes me new who takes into his mouth my broken name & in an exhale of smoke it emerges weathered but complete & still mine until i remake myself from stillness & drape myself in the life of a different girl rupture smoothed over like the noiseless surface of a lake & in the taxi i look out to the evening’s copper bruising i give directions i push away his looking & feel my body reinflate i dial my lover’s voice the car points homeward & my old panic melts back into its archive when he fills the backseat with sound & maybe i can be reborn as a girl who does not go missing a girl someone will look for no longer the decorative husk men make me with their want the quiet shrinks & i come unstuck from the leather i come unstuck from my hurts pay my fare & debark the car untouched my home protrudes like a lighthouse from the night i settle the body mine to register
Originally published in FUSION. Copyright © 2018 by Safia Elhillo. Used with the permission of the author.
Safia Elhillo is the author of The January Children (University of Nebraska Press, 2017).
Date Published: 2018-10-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/transport