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unhaunted

Poetry winner of the Writing in the Margins contest

say it to the snow. 
say it to the still-hot bullet. say it 
to the subway tunnel when you consider 
jumping into the approaching light. 
the future reeks of repetition and you are afraid 
to commit. before you sleep, say it to the empty belly of your bedroom. 
when you can’t read the language on your mother’s grave 
say it. in flashbacks he thrums in you, a bayonet through stone 
but he left you your bones, a hook to hang each 
jagged memory. your calloused throne. your first 
and last home. for years you delete yourself 
from photographs, how they remind you 
of him and what he wanted and what he stole 
and of her body and her body and her body 
veining the hallway floor in hair and blood. 
say your lineage is a long braid of womxn, untwining 
in his hands, his father’s, his grandfather’s. 
uprooting a sapling. polishing the rifle. 
ripping the cotton skin of a dress. 
you bear their names like heavy robes. say it. 
bind your waist in white ribbon. history’s seams 
are tearing. you learned violence as the sweetest love 
but you learned from the wrong people. 
you drop your voice into the ocean and it keeps 
falling. a red roar, a battle noise, this procession of faces 
you memorize by night as if loss is enough to make you love them 
and it is. once, you and your mother lay alone, two hospital floors 
apart as she stopped breathing. once, you stitched silence into 
your skin, but now the fabric is unspooling. 
you are bending to the slow arc of a drumbeat 
generations wide. one day at a time. a single star, spinning. 
your fingers your mother’s your grandmother’s. 
sealing dough. dabbing toothpaste off the mirror. 
pulling song from a lover’s wrist. 
say the secret. say it to the unhaunting sky. 
say your hungriest wish say today 
I surrendered to living.
say grace. 
say rage. say water and elegy. 
I remember. I remember. I remember you.

 

This poem was the winner of the poetry category of our ninth annual Writing in the Margins contest. Poetry entries were judged by El Jones. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Regina Public Interest Research Group (RPIRG) for this year’s contest. Briarpatch will be accepting entries for the tenth Writing in the Margins contest in September 2020.

Jody Chan (they/them) is a writer, organizer, drummer, and therapist-in-training based in Toronto.

Tags:   feminism poetry violence

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