Train in Vain
My body knows nothing but
its dumb shadow. Whatever
gets touched turns inwards
to sex, to rabbit holes, to
whatever has teeth, holds
a knife in the recesses
of its tongue. Professors
have told me that this
violence knows no language.
For hours, I have studied
its etymology, the way
to saigne. Science
is the simplest catharsis.
It does not imagine the bodies
I have crawled into. Does not
imagine the shape of his fists,
his liver, what he said before
the unhooking of bra straps,
seat belts, the off-white buckle
on a BDSM collar. The month
we unraveled each other, he
had apologized over the phone.
Nothing out of a man’s mouth
is understandable after phone sex.
Try to talk like that with someone
you have had incestuous feelings for
since you were sixteen. I’m sorry
will disappear into its own continent.
So will wet shame and age-appropriate
boyfriends and anything that does not
begin and end with a fist. When my
high school history teacher ravaged
my clit, everything threatened
to self-terminate. That is why
my perseverence feels
completely anathema to the suicidal
narrative I have made a career
out of perpetuating. Ask my family
how many times they have had
to talk me off of buildings.
I am frighteningly stable.
Since I was fifteen, I have been
repeating to myself, over and over,
the dangers of undressing in
front of strangers. I was not
being impulsive in my choice
to make a booty call out of
my high school history teacher.
He shook hands with prom dates,
analyzed politics with my family.
There was nothing strange in
the need for black eyes.
I will justify his love for
all things guttural until
my body is no longer capable of
inhabiting its old rage. It has been
two years since the last time
he saw me without my clothes on.
Nobody knows if my first
booty call is still alive, and part
of me is afraid of the answer.
I’d rather disappear into
other things–his football collection,
his chewing tobacco, the vague suggestion
of a woman on his tongue. Most adults have
the thought, if not the vivid impulse
to fuck a teenager. I do not blame him
for what happened at his apartment.
I am just surprised that
it was me he chose to burn alive,
and not one of the sad
strangers who touched themselves in public.
You know those women as well as I do–
the ones with the cigarettes, with the
fake IDs and the boy toys fingering
their windows. You cannot coax
a stranger’s aches into
You can only appreciate
the spectacle of their darkness.