Voices

Sometimes your voice comes from your room
laughing at jokes I’ll never understand,
talking to yourself while hands construct alternate worlds
out of plastic bricks and imagination.

But then there are times like tonight
when the voice becomes a frantic mumble, asking questions
and also answering them,
accompanied by staccato punctuation of small feet pacing
back and forth,
back and forth, back
and forth,
your mind a caged animal.

Times like tonight when I hold my breath,
listening for your voice to rise to levels
that mean I must hurry to hide knives and take down
glass covered pictures.

Here, in this one, you peek from behind my legs,
little fists grasping my pants,
two teeth poking out of a huge smile.

Here, blue eyes stare up as you nurse,
golden curl falling across your forehead, tiny hand
laying upon my breast.

Did you know I used to sing to you as you nursed,
hymnals in whispered verses?
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
        That saved a wretch like me…

How I wish I could sing to you now
Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear,
        But Grace my fears relieved…
hold you until you fall asleep,
and hush the voices with my own.

Bursting

I learn from my child’s science homework
the cells of bones
look like stars bursting.

Asymmetric fluid signal intensity enhancement along the left sacroiliac joint is
suspicious for sacroiliitis.

In the bath,
eyes closed and hair floating,
I imagine entire galaxies
in my hips,

Mild increased sclerosis and cortical blurring along the
inferior
sacroiliac joints bilaterally.

I imagine fireworks,
exploding stars.

Edema and enhancement may represent a bone hemangioma with
reactive
inflammation in the marrow.

Brighter than
Sun herself,
I am filled with supernovae
burning themselves into
extinction.

Heels

An older poem, written in 2014, as I began to grapple with what it meant to be a disabled femme…

Heels
by Angie River

I.
Click-clack click-clack click-clack click-clack
I mean business
Long steps as I stride across college hallways
Off to make the world right
If only for one student
Patent leather pumps

Thunder crash of a room full of hands against hands
Yelling from fans
My face glowing as I stand
Clothes scattered across stage
Arms above head
Pasties, thong, and nothing else but my
Black bowed burlesque heels

Silent stare as I stand in crowded courtroom
Damn you
Damn you
Don’t you dare mess with my
Babies
Kiss ass and take names stillettos

Laughing
Eyes locked
Skin kissed salty with sweat
Drunk boys spilling beer on my feet
I don’t care baby, I don’t care
I just want you, I just want you, just
Take me home and fuck me heels

II.
White kitchen trash bag
Mouth open
Swallowing pair after pair after pair
As I throw them in, while
I sit on the floor in pain
Angry at my body
Grieving
So much wrapped up in that leather, satin, glitter
So much of who I am
So many memories in those soles
Crying in my
Slippers

III.
My children screaming
Chasing each other around the yard
I smile and breathe in the grass
Denim blue high tops

Clapping and hollering
My voice hoarse from screaming
My glitter community on stage performing for me
Loving me by dancing when I can’t
I sit surrounded by friends
Red velvet Mary Janes

Florence and the Machine floating into
The kitchen as my love cooks
Grabbing me around the waist
Cheek to cheek
Rocking in a slow dance
Barefoot

Words tumbling one upon another
In dark-paneled room
Eyes watching my eyes fill with tears
Letting go and accepting
Black strappy flats

This is Just to Say

This is Just to Say
(fashioned after poem of the same name by William Carlos Williams)

I have stolen
the vibrator,
and hid it in a drawer
when you came
to take your things.

I am pretending you haven’t noticed
but if I know you, you have
and if you know me, you know
I feel guilty.

I tell myself:
Fat, sick introverts deserve pleasure too.

I tell myself:
It has lived on my side of the bed
for over two years
and could really, then, be considered
mine.

I tell myself:
Orgasms are how I break open
now that you aren’t here
to bite flesh and soul.
I cry when I come,
and yes, I realize how sad that sounds
but release appears in many forms.

Forgive me:
the truth is
the idea of it –
of you –
with another
was just too much
for me to bare.

What You Shall Do

Based on a prompt sent by Seema Reza, taken from the preface of Leaves of Grass and the line, “This is what you shall do…”

This is what you shall do:
Begin to say no
whenever heart twists in doubt.
Pronunciate
without hesitation
so nobody can misunderstand.

Not care what anyone things about the state
of your floors,
your body,
your mind.

Visit the ocean.

Listen to the little girl voice
that barely whispers
“I want” inside of you.

Take deep breaths.
Your lungs only get
so many chances.

Learn to love who you are
after you figure out
who you are.

Scream.
Allow anger.
Allow vulnerability.
They sometimes are one in the same.

Take risks even if it means failure,
if nothing else to teach yourself
that failure doesn’t determine
your worth.

Get your feet dirty;
you like the feel of cold earth.

Learn where you come from.
Love who you are.
Accept.
Heal.

No to Yes

Trigger warning: Descriptions of sexual assault

 

 

 

Simple Steps to Turn My No into a Yes
(in response to Men’s Fitness article ‘How to Turn a No Into a Yes,’ June 2016)

I. At the bar
Buy me shots of fireball whiskey
when you see me watching a woman
on the dance floor.

When a man dances close behind me
asking me if I have a boyfriend,
grab me and kiss me,
protectively saying “She’s with me” even
as my friends pull me away from you.

II. On a date
Tell me you will come over at six,
and then don’t show.
Don’t talk to me for months until you see me again
out dancing.
Then, see above.

Take me out behind the pool hall;
kiss me Marlboro and whiskey
pressed up against your truck.

Take my hand and put it on you,
and when I shake my head no, sigh.
Tell me I’m the type of girl to bring home to mom,
not the type to date.
Say, “Call me when you’re not so uptight.”
Tell me I’ve never been any fun,
that you should have known that wouldn’t change.

III. In bed
Play classic rock loudly.
My trembling will be lost in the reverberation
and I won’t be able to hear my heartbeat
pounding fear in my chest
over the bass line.

Wait until we are with others
to push fingers up skirt;
you won’t have to ‘shush’ me this way.
I will already be too ashamed to speak.

Pretend my tears are happy ones,
or if that doesn’t work for you,
tell me I’m ugly when I cry and that it ruins the mood.

Imagine my knees pressed together and ankles interlocked
are because I’m a shy girl, timid, a prude;
that’s what you’ve told me, right?

If I ask you to stop, that it hurts,
punch the pillow next to my head
and yell that I can’t do that to you, that you have needs.
I’ll nod okay.
Tell yourself it’s because I like a man in control.
Say to me, “I’m in charge; tell me I’m in charge.”
Convince yourself I bite the pillow because it is so good,
not because of pain.

Tell me you can’t help yourself,
that I’m just too damn hot.
And then when you’re done get up,
toss a twenty on the bed and walk out.
Call me a whore;
say you don’t love me or respect me.
I’ll race after you to beg you to come back
to bed, to show you that I can be loveable.

IV. In a relationship
Tell me I am just like my mother.
Ask me why I can’t be any fun
and tell me I’ll never change.

Pour me white wine from a box
as I sit in the bath you ran, extra hot, just for me.
Watch as my eyes glaze and I walk a bit sideways
from bathroom to bed.
Tell me it is my fault,
that I should keep a frying pan by the bed
to hit you with, if I really don’t want it.

Since I don’t do that,
it must mean I’m just playing – that really I do want it.

Tell me you love me;
tell me you don’t.

Take candle and drip too-hot wax on belly
as I squirm,
red welts appearing.
Watch me bandage my burned and broken self
my hands, my feet, my body
and then tell me I shouldn’t play with fire.