After Anne Sexton’s ‘Her Kind’
I have been girlhood bubbled over:
pedalling until my shins are lightning and thunder
bending and splitting last week’s scabbed knees.
I’ve skewered a smack of glossy jellyfish,
watched them shrivel. Dripping popsicle juice
down my chin as wild animals bare their bloody mouths
sticky and curious.
I have been shimmering and angular,
standing at the back of a gymnasium
wearing a dress inherited from a cousin
who had survived this already.
Hairspray and my mother’s perfume,
I was flammable and itchy.
I never felt more macroscopic.
Trying to look bored, like I did this all the time.
Like I spent each weekend bound in tulle and dancing
through every school gym and convention hall in town.
Like I hadn’t spent two hours having my hair done.
Like I hadn’t had my eyebrows waxed for the first time.
Dancing like everyone was watching, hoping they were.
I have been impossible to miss.
I have been told to wash my face. I have been called vain.
I have had my food cut in half because I don’t need it all.
I have been given a baggy t-shirt to wear to the pool.
I have worn cardigans in the summer.
No horizontal stripes, no loud patterns.
I was planted and tended so that I would bloom early.
Left out in the sun, bleached.
I have been a woman, her kind,
standing on stage in sequins
allowing myself to be sawed in half
as an audience of men nod approvingly.
No blood no gristle no signs of rot.
A match held to my tongue waiting for the sizzling bubble of a burn. I have hoped my spine
was a wick, my organs suspended in hot wax. My limbs become flames dancing
across a tree canopy turning forests to ashen snow. I have hundreds of words,
thousands of songs still, you won’t come close enough. Girls like me know better than to shout.
We have known women screaming below open windows. We know that no one will come
to save us. No cadaver dogs chasing our scent from a hairbrush. No men in capes.
Still, I punctuate smoke-like sentences with ‘I’m sorry’ speaking only in questions spacious enough to step inside, welcoming. I slither, drag my belly on the ground, widen my jaw
to eat the beasts of Eden. I relax my throat as if to swallow a sword. You reach inside
to take the last word. I spit out the bones, saliva mixing with dirt.
When I leave your apartment
cradling my shoes and clutching my toothbrush, (the only things of mine to repossess),
I wish there were paparazzi and journalists thrusting microphones toward my mouth
close enough to bite, but you and I and the end is only headline news in my mind.
I am not Meg Ryan. You are not Billy Crystal or Tom Hanks.
This is not a telenovela or The Notebook.
We are just people who thought we got along
and then realised we don’t.
At the Bus Stop
Her laugh begins with her teeth
and stops in the split ends of her hair.
She looks out of place, fizzing,
and forming a right angle.
Her back is an anchor.
Her palms are upturned, and they meet
like praying but the kind I want to know.
Her open mouth is a pulsing cave.
Only her eyes tell me she isn’t in pain.
She holds her laugh out to the bus driver
preciously, he accepts it as payment.
I want to ask her what it feels like.
I covet her smile and laugh and easiness.
I haven’t been this close to joy.
She exists in ways that I miss.
If she is combustible, then I am a matchbook
She creates a storm and I am not afraid
because I have made storms too.
And I imagine you living outward
on the same sidewalks as this woman.
Making brief eye contact with a cashier
as you pay for a coffee, a scone.
I imagine you leaving fingerprints
on bus seats and tabletops,
sticking your gum to the bottom of a chair.
You come home and I’m trying to reach you
from across my invisible universe
to the land of the living.
You exist in ways that I miss
Alanna Offield is a disabled, queer Chicana from northern New Mexico, who lives in Killowen, Ireland near Carlingford Lough. She has a BA in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Chicana/Chicano Studies, Women’s Studies, and American Studies from the University of New Mexico, and an MSc in Marketing from Queen’s University Belfast. She has worked as a community organizer and as an anti-oppression and social justice educator. She was longlisted for the 2020 Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing and attended the 2020 Seamus Heaney Poetry Summer School. Her work has appeared in Abridged. To see more of her work, you can check out alannaoffield.com, or follow her on Instagram and Twitter, @alannaoffield