I am not entirely convinced that Roxane Gay is a single entity. I intend to find out at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, where she will sit for panels and interviews on both Saturday and Sunday, March 22 and 23
When I was sixteen I was strapped to a motel
chair backwards. My eyes folded open like mail.
In the parking lot, a hummingbird dragged her new antlers
And the police finished arresting all of my friends.
I learned to avoid arrest like I learned to pray.
On my knees with two holes in my pockets.
Once I said the Lord’s Prayer and when I opened
My eyes, there was a kitchen knife in my mouth.
When I pulled it out, I saw that it wasn’t a knife
But a tooth. A giant tooth. Like a dogs only bigger.
This is God’s tooth I said and I kept it. When the
Officer put his hands on me, I said not to touch me.
I closed my mouth on his left wrist and bit.
When I was Sixteen I was Sixteen Forever (II)
Once I asked my Mom to take pictures of me in a baseball dugout while I wore my older brothers jacket. I said it was for a school project, but it was for me. I wanted to look at the pictures. And see if I still looked the same.
When someone fucks you when you’re a child, it can feel like you don’t have a body. It can feel like a surgery is being performed and that you must sit still or you’ll wake up and you won’t get your new body.
Afterwards, I looked at the pictures. And I didn’t look different at all.
So I tied a string to my father’s camera and I swallowed it.
An hour later I pulled it out of my mouth. Every picture showed the handprints all over my body.
A mark where a thumb had been pressing.
An index finger. A ringprint. A palm.
A graph of a lung printed on a
rubber balloon. (See Figure 3)
Fingers shoved into my mouth
until I’m so full of luck I could die.
The body of a young boy dismembered
The body of a young boy disrobed
The body of a young boy asleep in
The nursery, dismembered and also disrobed
(See figure 2 for more detail)
It is the sharp ones that matter. A
Hand like a knife in your closet.
I imagine the balloonist trying to save
Me. She inflates me until I am sick at
The rims. Until I am so full of air
I’m like paper. If you hold
Me up, you can see me right
through. (See figure 9 for less detail)
My convulsing body carried toward a river
By a woman but not the balloonist
My convulsing body drowning in a river
But not the same body or river.
I was saved like a meal saved
For later. In the closet I found
A small closet. (See Figure 3)
When I opened it,
my lungs filled with milk.
For my birthday, I want
a new funnel.
A gallon of sink water to clean
Out my mouth.
(See Figure 2 to see
A clean mouth)
Put a plastic bag underwater
And watch whatever was inside
Of it become a new bag. (See
Figure 5). See
a boy who is being drowned become
a bag full of water and boy.
A balloonist carves her knees in a closet
In a throat or a jar
I float upwards.
like a bubble of milk.
David Freeman is a poet and playwright from Long Lake, Minnesota. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review Online, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, The Indianapolis Review, and others. He currently lives in Chicago.0