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Beholder

she is an archive, the transcription of
forgotten tales in brittle paper lungs
guarded with a double-edged tongue.
silence is exposure, the stripping
of thread and unraveling herself and
we turn her into the glare of morning,
tell her not to move:
let us pick you apart and study
the stories bent in your eyelids, scored in your palms—
and because we ask, she submits
to silence.
it is difficult to place her on the page
when in her figure i can only see translations:
in her shoulders curving up to her jaw
i want to draw how they used to go for her throat,
illustrate that in the line of her slumped spine is
a memory of how they counted her bones, contemplating
how to make her break each one in her own hands. her hands
are a map of the battles of the revolution,
calluses formed from fingers gliding
over shelves in the dusk of libraries searching
for a new cover. she was small enough
to dig graves in dim corners and endnotes, playing dead
so they wouldn’t pin her up like a captive butterfly,
tear off her wings to examine
how freaky she looked when they held
her to the light and let it burn through.
she is trying to be small again, folding wings and reminiscing
on bare feet in snow and the delaware river. she thinks
how she would like to be remembered not for her likeness
but the icy waves she broke, and if
i were to break her into words
she would be the story of the purple heart,
but instead i am drawing her
as a monarch butterfly that came south for the winter,
breaking december with her wings as she crossed the delaware.
i want to show her she is not ugly in the light and eyes
were not made to cut through her but
to bring the light out of her hands;
i am drawing her as she is—
a breathing history of unbroken bones and revolutions.




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