Picture 9 by Amira Farooq. Image Courtesy of the Artist.
I spend summer afternoons
skimming my body
along the edges
of our vinyl pool.
When the back door thunders
I wedge myself behind the ladder,
and the white-blue wall.
Oak leaves shudder,
blow on their limbs
like storm clouds.
As they rush overhead,
my breath is rapid,
shallow like water
sputtering from the filter.
In the corner of my closet, I curl into a hushed womb
of fabric, press against rough papered walls, track
the cracked plaster, thick-grained floorboards,
tear an old Easter dress from its hanger, wrap my shoulders
in torn taffeta, touch the worn neckline and know
muscles are nothing more than thin strands of silk
blanketing my bones
I swallow watermelon, tomato, and apple seeds whole,
plant myself in my mother’s overgrown garden, dig
my fingers into the dirt, think about how they tingle
all the time now, knotted together like tangled roots.
I imagine the small pains as thawing, will it to spread,
will the ends of my hair to hook, tug me into the ground.
Voices flood the staircase,
a torrent circling me at the top
as I kneel behind my bedroom door.
My head rests against an iron air vent,
Eyes closed, I listen, hear waves racing,
crashing, feel carpet giving to shore.
A door slams and my lungs pack
with sand, pebbles catch in my veins.
When I stand, ghosts of starfish
are pressed into my dimpled shins.
~ Chelsey Harris
I rub soot scraped from the fireplace
into my skin and walk
down a dirt road,
past the edge of town
watching light towers pulse
in the night, I pull the soft red
from the sky,
place it on my tongue,
tip my head back
I pluck stars from the darkness,
between my teeth,
stick them to the ends
of my eyelashes,
Lying in the dry ditch,
I imagine myself
the faded line of horizon
to the constant static of cars
passing on the nearby highway,
their lights warm and fade,
for a set to sweep over me.
Chelsey Harris is currently in the MFA program at Southern Illinois University. Her work has appeared in Dressing Room Poetry Journal and Cooper Street, and is forthcoming in ‘Hope Grows Here: Stories of Resilience from Survivors of Domestic Abuse’.